You may have heard of a plant that can eat a rat whole. It is Attenborough's pitcher plant. This is a type of carnivorous pitcher plant which has a typical pitcher shaped like a bell and an upright lid. The Latin name is Nepenthes attenboroughii. The specimen which was used to define the species was collected at the top of Mount Victoria in central Palawan in the Philippines.
Attenborough's pitcher plant is a new species which was first described in 2009. It was listed in the 2012 list of the top 100 most threatened species in the world. It was discovered in June 2007 during a research expedition. The plan was to document the different types of pitcher plants resident to the Philippine archipelago. The motivation for the trip came from people in the region describing giant nepenthes on the mountainside during the early 2000s.
The leaves are up to 30 cm long and 10 cm wide and the plant can reach a height of up to 1.5 m. It's huge! Don't fall in. The stem can be up to 3.5 cm thick, making this a substantial plant. It can grow some of the biggest pitchers in it is genus. Despite this it has not beaten the record set by the N. rajah species.
The traps can exceed 2 L capacity at times. The liquid is very viscous and is topped up by rainwater because the lid is upright. The lower part of the pitcher contains viscous fluid and the upper part is more watery. In 2009 the plants were the subject of much discussion in the newspapers around the world because it was said that it can catch and kill rats. Despite this, at the time no rodents had been observed to have been caught by the plant.
After this time, during October 2012, a dead shrew was found in a pitcher. The image was circulated having been taken during a recent expedition to Mount Victoria. On returning it was found that the shrew had been reduced to mostly bony remains after only two months.
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