Pitcher Plant, the Tough & Useful Carnivorous Plant of Sugi Island
By: Elsa Siahaan
Picture taken by Telunas staff on the Jungle hike, Sugi Island.
This plant has several names. It’s scientific name in Latin is Nepenthes and also is known as Tropical Pitcher Plant. In Bahasa Indonesia it is known as Kantong Semar. In Malay, this plant called periuk kera or cawan monyet. This plant can be found in some tropical areas such as Southern China, Indochina, Malaysia, The Philippines, Western Madagascar, Seychelles, New Caledonia,, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, and Indonesia. The habitat is most widely found in Borneo and Sumatra. Not to be forgotten, these pitcher plants can be found growing vigorously in the jungle in Sugi Island on the way to the black pool.
Carnivorous plant, really?
Pitcher plants are called carnivorous plants because this plant eats prey such as bugs, insects, or even small animals like rats. On the contrary there are some reports of the species becoming a vegetarian.
How do we tell if it is pitcher plant?
This plant has some characteristics. This plant has more than 100 species in the world that can live both mountainous and lowland areas (i.e, beach area). It contains sword-shaped leaves entirely. It can grow either propagating like climbing stem in between 15-20 cm or has a shallow root system which makes it stay close to the ground. This plant has 3 different kind of shape, the top, bottom, and rosette types.
Is there any trap inside the plant?
Yes. This plant has a trap inside it. The trap contains a fluid of the plant’s own production which is used to trap the prey.
“The Research has shown this fluid contains viscoelastic biopolymers that may be crucial to the retention of insects within the traps of many species. The lower part of the trap contains glands which absorb nutrients from captured prey. Along the upper inside part of the trap is a slick, waxy coating which makes the escape of its prey nearly impossible. Surrounding the entrance to the trap is a structure called the peristome (the “lip”) which is slippery and often quite colorful, attracting prey, but offering an unsure footing. Above the peristome is a lid (the operculum); in many species, this keeps rain from diluting the fluid within the pitcher, the underside of which may contain nectar glands which attract prey.”
Wikipedia (Botanical History, Ecological Relationships)
How useful is this plant?
It is very helpful as a climate indicator. If in one location that has the kind of Nepenthes gymnamphora, it means that location has high percentage of rainfall rate, humidity up to 75%, and the soil is low in nutrients.
It is useful as traditional medicine. The liquid that kept closed can be used as a cough medicine. Boiled water from the root and the liquid inside is also useful as stomach medicine, an aid in avoiding wetting your pants, a balm for soothing burns, and a remedy for eye problems. Also, this plant is another drinking source for thirsty hikers.
Pitcher plant type N. gymnamphora is a drinkable water source with its neutral PH ( 6-7 ) with the condition if the plant’s skin is still closed. Opened ones will have already been contaminated by dead insects that went inside resulting in a PH of 3 and a sour taste as well.
There are some local people using this plant as a substitute of rope. The stem of this plant can be used to tie goods.
Scientific classification: Kingdom Plantae, Division Magnolipophyta, Class Magnoliopsida, Order Caryophyllales, Family Nepenthaceae Dumort. (1829), Genus Nepenthes L. (1753).
———–. “Kantung Semar.”Ndobos. n.p., 27 Feb 2008. Web. 11 Feb 2014. <http://ndobos.com/2008/02/27/kantung-semar/>
Endah, A. “Kantong Semar Tanaman Karnivora.”Alamendah. n.p., 08 Oct 2009. Web. 11 Feb 2014. <http://alamendah.org/2009/10/08/kantong-semar-tanaman-karnivora/>.
Saputra, G. A. “Kantong Semar – Ciri-ciri, Manfaat dan Jenis Kantong Semar.” Satwa: Flora dan Fauna Indonesia. 15 Sep 2013. Web. 11 Feb 2014. <http://www.satwa.net/542/kantong-semar-ciri-ciri-manfaat-dan-jenis-kantong-semar.html>