A Papuan Pitcher Plant

On a recent journey to Papua New Guinea (guided by Stewart McPherson), we came across just a single example of the carnivorous pitcher plant Nepenthes. The focus of the journey had been on birds of paradise, orchids and human cultures, but this was one of several other interesting plants we met with. Apparently they are very much more abundant to the west in Irian Jaya. I am more familiar with Nepenthes on Borneo, my favourite being Nepenthes ampullaria and its associated tiny narrowmouth frogs.

The plant was  a Nepenthes maxima, the great pitcher plant, growing on a raised area next to a stream at an elevation of 1945 m in an area south of Mount Hagen, not far from Rondon Ridge. Mount Giluwe (4367 m) lies to the west behind a ridge of Nebilyer limestone (see image below).

The Nepenthes location in the upper Wahgi Valley near Mount Hagen (North is to the right)

We scrambled through the dense vegetation to reach the plant and then released Stewart to talk on his favourite topic - the carnivorous plants. The plant revealed lower pitchers, upper pitchers, inflorescences and infructescences together with dead and dry pitchers, one of which was home to a brilliant green cricket. Here below are some images.

a lower pitcher

an upper pitcher

a pitcher tilted to show captured prey

dead pitchers are good hiding places

an inflorescence

an infructescence on the same plant

For further reading, see McPherson, S.R. & A. Robinson 2012. Field Guide to the Pitcher Plants of Australia and New Guinea. Redfern Natural History Productions, Poole.


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