Tropical pitcher plants are the only carnivorous plants that can grow to large sizes large enough to swallow large insects to large rodents. There are over 150 different species of tropical pitcher plants and every one displays mother nature’s dark side of revenge against small mammals & insects. The largest tropical pitcher plant current is “Nepenthes Rajah”. Nepenthes means a plant of a genus that comprises the Old World pitcher plants.
Although these plants are beautiful and create some of the most amazing looking flowers that are entirely harmless, the fact that the flower was made because of all the nutrients it captured from the prey it devoured is frightening. To grow among these king carnivore plants in your own backyard means to set up a death trap for any small critters nearby. In Lakeland Florida, the Nepenthes Miranda species is well known for capturing one particular prey far too frequently than any fleas and insect. Although this prey can potentially escape most of the time, it has been seen on YouTube, photography and books that this prey can in fact drown and become plant dinner when it falls into a big trap which happens far too often in Lakeland Florida.
Anole lizards seem to play a major part in any Nepenthes diet in Lakeland Florida. These lizards are everywhere and have been the main course to a meal plan oblivious. It is truly sad to see that these anole lizards became a part of a plants source of protein; they do not appear to get a rest at all. Not only do cats feast upon them, birds, large insects, Fish and other reptiles like Frogs and toads will gobble these lizards up and today we’re adding plants because their enemies now?! With over a billion of these lizards in the state of Florida, there are plenty to go around.
So how do they get caught? It’s extremely straightforward and somewhat different than how the insects get captured. Let’s first explain the difference. Insects fall prey to the Nepenthes pitcher plants for two major reasons; due to the plant’s colour & due to the plant’s nectar. Nepenthes pitcher plants create colorful leaves and traps that capture the attention of hungry bugs & insects passing by. The leaves resemble delicious fruits and the nectar that the plant releases around the traps lip seals the deal and tips that the insects into thinking it’s a free meal with no cost. Almost like a person drinking beer or vodka, drink too much and it’s over. The lip of the traps are also slippery, designed so prey could fall inward into the trap when they have become groggy and can no longer hold themselves onto the slippery surface. Once at the bottom, they drown in the pool of digestive juices and then the plant will start the breakdown the insects’ soft parts and suck it up its glands.
The capture process is comparable to anole lizards; The lizards are attracted to the smell of the delicious nectar and start licking it off the lip but that doesn’t seal the deal as quickly as it does with insects. In the state of Florida, it can be very hot during the summer months & it isn’t always simple for lizards to find drinking water. They become tempted to push their luck by scaling inside the pitchers and make their way to the digestive juices to drink; after drinking from a pool of drowned and digested insects is better than not drinking in any way. Some lizards hide interior pitcher plants from other predators or find insects still alive inside a pitcher trap and try to catch and eat it. The problem about this is that the lizard will more and likely fall in the liquid and if he’s lucky, he can swim and climb his way out but when he can’t get out and becomes exhausted from the unsuccessful attempts of escape, then he’ll drown and become dinner. This happens far too frequently for pitcher plant growers in Florida. Some pitchers can catch more lizards than they could digest, leading to the trap rotting away.
Insect meals can take about 3 weeks to digest completely while anole lizards can take up to 2-3 months prior to leaving nothing but lizard bones at the bottom of a pitcher plant snare. A pitcher plant that eats nothing but reptiles can grow into a very large plant and if the plant is receiving the humidity, heat & lighting it needs, it can grow some very big traps (depending on the species).