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Nepenthes Plant Profile

Scientific NameNepenthes (genus)

Common Names: Pitcher plants, monkey cups

Nepenthes, also known as tropical pitcher plants, are a type of carnivorous plant. That’s right folks, these plants eat living things! The main reason they evolved this unusual trait has to do with the areas in which they evolved - they typically grow in soil that is lacking in a few key nutrients, most notably nitrogen and phosphorous. Their solution to this was to get these nutrients instead from living things! Life finds a way! 

Interestingly, botanists have had a hard time pinning down exactly the evolutionary path this kind of plant took. They’ve found the plant varieties thatNepenthesmost likely diverged from, and there are a few solid theories as to howNepenthesspread to the areas it now inhabits, but a number of consistent holes in these theories have continued to crop up (such as howNepenthesended up all the way over in Madagascar when 90% ofNepentheslives in the part of the world centered around Indonesia and Malaysia). We’ll figure it out someday! 

Pitcher plants typically grow around ten pitchers at a time, meaning it'll make a dent in any summer fruit fly or other household pest problems you may be experiencing ten bugs at a time! This is a very rewarding plant to take care of. 

Pitcher plant basic care: 

  1. Water using distilled or rain water only! Tap water contains minerals that clog up the delicate systems inside the plant.
  2. Plant in a sphagnum moss and soil mixture! They like to stay consistently moist, and the moss plays a key role in achieving that outcome.
  3. Keep this plant in bright indirect light. This means that they should sit near - but not directly in front of - a window. If a cat would nap in the light that you’re considering placing this plant in, then that light is too bright and will burn the plant. 

Pitcher plants catch bugs inside a tube-like structure that forms at the end of their leaves! When a pitcher has successfully captured prey, you’ll notice that it shrivels up. Don’t worry, that’s just part of its natural processes. When it gets hungry again, it will grow more pitchers. 

Please remember to keep them moist! Mist them down with distilled or rain water. Don’t let them dry out! 

Fun fact: Most varieties of pitcher plants are generalist predators, which basically means that they’ll eat whatever falls in their pitchers. Some tropical pitcher plants can digest entire small rodents and birds!