How Are Bugs Lured Into the Tropical Pitcher Plant?


While most plants get their nourishment from nitrogen in the soil, the tropical pitcher plant (Nepenthes) gets its nourishment from the nitrogen in insects and small animals. While nourishing soil is scarce in the tropical highlands home of the pitcher plant, invertebrates are abundant. A stunningly beautiful plant that attracts many admirers and collectors, the pitcher plant uses its bright colors to entice insects who may be looking for a flower to feed on.


Insects are also drawn to the scent of nectar that the tropical pitcher plant exudes. Insects feed off of nectar, and the pitcher plant uses this to its advantage. The tropical pitcher plant is a family of 90 different species of climbing vines found in the tropical regions of Australia, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, the Seychelles and Sri Lanka--but mostly in southeast Asia. A tendril grows with a pitcher-shaped leaf from the tip of the plant's leaves. Once matured, it opens and secretes nectar from specialized glands inside and around the pitcher.


The tropical pitcher plant is a carnivorous plant that uses the pitfall method of catching its prey. This plant gets its name from its shape which is how it keeps insects from escaping once they have been attracted to its colors and odor. The insect either climbs or falls into the pitcher-shaped structure of the plant, and then the waxy interior and downward pointing hairs inside the pitcher keep its victims entombed. Meanwhile, the plant's digestive juices are secreted deep inside the pitcher to digest the insect's soft body parts.

Keywords: tropical pitcher plant, pitcher plant lures insects, carnivorous plant attracts insects

About this Author

Em Connell McCarty has been writing for more than 27 years. She studied writing at the University of Iowa and at Hollins University in Virginia. She is continuing her study of English and writing at the University of Wisconsin. She writes fiction, creative nonfiction and essays. McCarty's fiction has been published in "Hip Mama" magazine and "Danse Macabre."