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Deadly plants

 

Not all plants are herbivores

So, you’ve probably heard of a Venus fly trap, a carnivorous plant that waits for its prey (flies and small insects) to land on them, they then close on the insect like a mouth, the plant then digests the insect and takes the necessary nutrients from them.

However unknown to many people there are lots of carnivorous plants. The largest and most deadly of these is the Nepenthes Rajah. Nepenthes Rajah is part of the pitcher plant family, these plants live deep in the jungle and are shaped like a large beaker with a lid that opens and closes. The pitcher plants wait for their prey to climb upon them then they close on them trapping them inside. You might think that doesn’t sound to bad but the “beaker” is filled with liquid to digest its prey. Most pitcher plants can only devour small and also large insects such as scorpions, cockroaches, spiders and more. Most of these plants are brightly coloured and give off a sweet sugary smell as this attracts certain insects. The rim of the pitcher (peristome) is slippery, when moistened by condensation or nectar, causing insects to fall into the trap. These plants don’t use photosynthesis to survive and rely purely on getting minerals and nutrients from prey.

Nepenthes Rajah on the other hand is on a whole knew level. It is the largest carnivorous plant in the world and is sometimes referred to as “the king of the pitcher plants”. This fascinating plant can be filled with up to 3 and a half litres of water and 2 and a half litres of digestive fluid. Again, these plants usually feed from larger insects however it isn’t uncommon for them to devour rats, small birds, frogs, lizards and other vertebrates. This and one other plant is known to catch larger animals and that is called N.rafflesiana and that is also part of the pitcher plant family.

Nepenthes Rajah has a very strange relationship with local shrews, who want to mark their feeding territory, the shape and size of the pitcher forces the shrews to defecate directly into the plants cup providing it with valuable nitrogen. While it is rarer for them to catch larger animals, shrews defecate in them all the time. It can grow up to 41cm in height and around 20cm in width.

All Nepenthes pitchers share several basic characteristics. Traps consist of the main pitcher cup, which is covered by an operculum or lid that prevents rainwater from entering the pitcher and displacing or diluting its contents. A reflexed ring of hardened tissue, known as the peristome, surrounds the entrance to the pitcher and a pair of fringed wings run down the front of lower traps and these presumably serve to guide terrestrial insects into the pitchers' mouth.

Not all interactions between Nepenthes and animals are beneficial to the plant. Nepenthes rajah is sometimes attacked by insects which feed on its leaves and damage substantial portions of the lamina. Also, monkeys and tarsiers are known to occasionally rip pitchers open to feed on their contents.Carnivorous plant

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