A carnivorous plant from Borneo feeds on excretion

Anita Durairaj

Nepenthes IowiiPhoto byJeremiahsCPs; CC-BY-SA-3.0

An article in Atlas Obscura describes Nepenthes Iowii as a "toilet-shaped" carnivorous plant. The plant's pitchers resemble a "toilet bowl with a lid." The lid is the part of the leaf that keeps the rain out.

Nepenthes Iowii is a tropical pitcher plant that is only found in Borneo.

It was discovered in 1851 by a British naturalist and another British officer when they climbed the highest mountain in Borneo and Malaysia, Mount Kinabalu.

The plant is typically found at high elevations at about 5,500 to 8,500 above sea level.

There are 160 species of pitcher plants and these plants have unique leaves that have evolved to hold digestive fluid.

Some pitcher plants may catch insects while others like Nepenthes Iowii feed on something a bit different.

Nepenthes Iowii feeds on the waste of animals -specifically mammal droppings that are nitrogen rich. This plant grows on nutrient-deficient soil so it has adapted to catch the droppings of birds and tree shrews that feed at its nectaries. The tree shrew defecates directly into the pitcher.

In fact, a study found that Nepenthes Iowii pitchers contained a significant amount of animal excrement and that the plant obtained most of its nitrogen from the tree shrew droppings.

There are at least seven natural hybrids of Nepenthes Iowii and these hybrids can be distinguished by slight changes in the physical features of the plant. For example, changes may be noticed in the shape of the lid or the plant's peristome.

This indicates that Nepenthes Iowii has certainly adapted to thrive in the remote locations of Borneo.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.


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