One-of-a-Kind Carnivorous Plant Discovered

Universal

| LAST UPDATE 07/04/2022

By Stanley Wickens
Nepenthes pudica plant discovery
Mark Newman via Getty Images

A recent discovery by researchers has led to the addition of a new species to the kingdom of plants that exist on our planet. Meet Nepenthes pudica: a type of pitcher plant with quite a few superpowers. Here's what it can do.

One of only four kinds of carnivorous plants on Earth, Nepenthes pudica doesn't just rely on water, minerals, and sunlight for fuel. Instead, it feasts on little crawlers that normally lurk in the soil around it. The species is similar to other pitcher plants, which have modified leaves, called pitfall traps or pitchers, that it uses to catch its prey before it consumes it. But despite the fundamental characteristics it shares with other carnivorous plants, Nepenthes pudica uses a very rare mechanism to lure in its prey...

Nepenthes pudica carnivorous plant
dorisj via Getty Images
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"We found a pitcher plant which differs markedly from all the other known species," said Martin Dančák of the Czech Republic's Palacký University, who is the lead author of the study. The fascinating discovery the team made about the plant was that it's the only known type of plant that catches its prey underground! "This species places its up-to-11-cm-long (4.3-inch-long) pitchers underground, where they are formed in cavities or directly in the soil and trap animals living underground, usually ants, mites, and beetles," Dančák went on to explain. The team notes that the prey the Nepenthes pudica captured was also significantly larger than that of other pitcher plants. 

It's interesting to note that the team stumbled upon the discovery by accident! They had stumbled upon a plant that closely resembled Nepenthes, but since its pitchers were underground, they couldn't tell it was a carnivorous plant. Then one deformed pitcher poking out of the soil caught their attention. "At first, we thought it was an accidentally buried pitcher and that local environmental conditions had caused the lack of other pitchers," said Ľuboš Majeský of Palacký University Olomouc, who was part of the research team. But as they continued up the mountain, they discovered that the base of one tree had a bunch of pitchers with a rich maroon color. Researchers say the discovery is important for nature conservation in Indonesian Borneo, and are hoping the discovery will help protect Bornean rainforests from deforestation. Stay tuned for more fascinating discoveries!

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