Pitcher Plants of Palawan – Stewart McPherson (2010)

The naturalist and explorer Stewart McPherson sets out to discover new species of pitcher plants on the Island of Palawan in the Philippines. Carnivorous plants have the most impressive adaptations that help them survive comfortably in low-nutrient environments. Most plants absorb nutrients through their root but carnivorous plants trap and digest various invertebrates to get nutrients. Even small frogs and mammals can become prey. McPherson previously discovered 5 new species of pitcher plants and photographed one that has trapped a rodent. He is also the author of a two volume monograph on pitcher plants of the world. Throughout the documentary he also mentions a few other interesting plants and animals including the Agathis tree which is a rather ancient conifer belonging to the Araucariaceae family whose resin is highly valuable and is under intense human pressure.

In the Old World there are two genera of Pitcher Plants – Nepenthes and Cephalotus. There are 120 species of Nepenthes occuring across tropical areas in Southeast Asia. Among them is the largest of all carnivorous plant species with a pitcher larger than 3 litres in volume. Cephalotus is represented with only one species in Southeast Australia. It’s small, purple pitchers are specialized for trapping arthropod prey, mostly ants.

In the New World there are five genera of pitcher plants. These include the Cerracenia and Darlingtonia – the cobra lily – of North America. Both grow in temperate areas experiencing cold conditions (often frost and snow) in winter.

The remaining three genera are from the tropical Americas. One of them Heliamphora grows atop of the geologically distinct tepuis plateaus scattered across southern Venezuela and western Guyana. The remaining two groups are tank bromeliads (Brocchinia and Catopsis) occuring in Central and South America.

Cerracenia was featured in one of the episodes of the “Plants are Coll Too!” series hosted by Dr. Chris Martine where the habitat, life cycle, morphology and ecosystem of Sarracenia alata, a species of carnivorous pitcher plant known as “The Pale Pitcher Plant” is explored:

 

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