Scientists in Cambodia’s remote Cardamom Mountains have discovered a new species of carnivorous pitcher plant that eats meat in order to flourish in otherwise impoverished soils.
Researchers from Fauna & Flora International (FFI) discovered that the large red and green pitchers of Nepenthes holdenii are actually modified leaves designed to capture and digest insects.
An unusual adaptation seen in this new species is its ability to survive during drought periods when fires regularly decimate the rest of the plant life.
François Mey, a French botanist and Nepenthes expert who described the plant said: ‘This amazing species may be the most drought-tolerant of the genus. Thanks to a large underground tuber, it has the ability to endure extended periods of drought and fires’.
The new species is being called the Holden Pitcher after British photographer Jeremy Holden, who first found the plant during the FFI survey.
“The Cardamom Mountains are a treasure chest of new species, but it was a surprise to find something as exciting and charismatic as an unknown pitcher plant,” Holden said.
Biologists claim that the discovery of this plant reinforces the need for continuous exploration and protection of biodiversity.
The new pitcher plant joins a green-blooded frog and a number of new reptiles that have recently been discovered in the Cardamom Mountains.
Mey and Holden are currently working on a book devoted to the carnivorous plants of Cambodia.
Image Credit: Jeremy Holden