Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Pitcher plants, belonging to the Nephentes family, are called 'periuk kera' or monkey cups. The cups hold rain water which monkeys and other animals drink. On our visit to Mt Kinabalu last weekend, we chose to take a guided tour of The Nephentes Trail which took us up from 2000 m to about 2150 m in the jungle. True to its name, the trail was scattered with monkey cups of different sizes and colors.
Monkey cups are modified leaves, growing from the tip of the leaves. They come in all sizes, from this midget:
to this giant:
According to the guide, the largest cups found in Mt K are about half a metre! Tiny animals such as shrews and other rodents drown in the water and are dissolved by the slightly acidic water as they rot, and so the plants get the nutrients they need as the soil at this elevation is poor in nutrients.
The lid of the cup attracts insects (esp. ants) and small animals, by excreting a sweet nectar. The ants come closer, and because the rim around the cup is smooth, they slide into the cup and drown in the water. Even if they make it up, they can't escape from the cup because there are tiny thorns around the rim of the cup to stop them. Very sinister design.