New Pitcher Plant Discoveries

2 February 2012

The incredible diversity of Tropical Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes) becomes more evident each year as new species continue to be discovered across Southeast Asia. As recently as 1997, a total of only 82 Nepenthes were recognized, but in the past 15 years new findings and some taxonomic splits bring the world total to nearly 140 species today. Many of these new discoveries not only showcase the fascinating ecological adaptations and trap designs that make these carnivorous plants so successful, but they also help to shed light on their possible evolutionary relationships and biogeographical pathways.

I was fortunate to be able to contribute towards several papers in a recent publication “The New Nepenthes – vol. 1″ (Dec 2011) which compiles work from multiple authors and describes eight new Nepenthes species that have been found in recent years. Two of these, N. undulatifolia (below left) and N. nigra are from Sulawesi, an island with a relatively impoverished Nepenthes flora of only 11 species. The highly unusual N. undulatifolia was an exciting find for botanists because it could not be clearly grouped with any other closely related species.

The remote Hose Mountains in central Sarawak, an area where I had discovered two other endemic Nepenthes in 2001, yielded another new species, N. appendiculata (below right), during a study in 2011. This species was named for the remarkable swollen appendage protruding from the tip of the pitcher lid, a feature unlike any other species in the genus. Presumably an aid in the attraction of insect prey, this appendage is brightly colored and riddled with large nectar glands. Further field work may determine what types of insects this plant specializes in feeding on.

Nepenthes undulatifoliaNepenthes appendiculata

References:

Jebb, M. & M. Cheek (1997) A Skeletal Revision of Nepenthes (Nepenthaceae). Blumea 42: 1-106.

Lee, C.C., G. Bourke, W. Taylor, Y.S. Teck, K. Rembold (2011) Nepenthes appendiculata, a new Pitcher Plant from Sarawak. In The New Nepenthes, Redfern Natural History Publications Ltd. 1: 24-35.

Lee, C.C., A. Wistuba, J. Nerz, U. Zimmermann, A.P. Paserang, R. Pitopang (2011) Nepenthes undulatifolia, a new Pitcher Plant from South East Sulawesi. In The New Nepenthes, Redfern Natural History Publications Ltd. 1: 492-505.

Nerz, J., A. Wistuba, C.C. Lee, G. Bourke, U. Zimmermann, S. McPherson (2011) Nepenthes nigra, a new Pitcher Plant from Central Sulawesi. In The New Nepenthes, Redfern Natural History Publications Ltd. 1: 468-491.


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