Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cauldrons of mass destruction

It was a seemingly normal warm cloudy evening.

I was travelling along a little-travelled bitumen path at a little-known corner of Borneo when I caught sight of these curious little pitchers dangling from a vertical slope rising from both sides of our path.
Elegant in pastel hues and seemingly harmless....yet there was something unholy about them....

Curiosity got the better of me as I lifted one of the pitchers and peered into its murky crevice.....

.... what I saw was a massacre of the highest order, a genocide so foul it would stink the Seventh Heaven. Bodies were everywhere, some still intact, others had been disfigured to such extend that rendered identification impossible.

With a heavy heart and heavier footsteps, I made my way gingerly back to the town.

Fortunately there was curry chicken for dinner, which was truly therapeutic for a bitter soul ....

Nepenthes mirabilis, a widespread and very variable plant in SE Asia. This is the common form which is found from S. China down south all the way to Borneo and spreading as far east as New Guinea. While the major diet of Nepenthes albomarginata is termites and that of ampullaria is leaf-litter and droppings, this species is particularly adapted for trapping many types of live insects, using the pinkish pitchers and extrafloral nectaries concentrating on the lids and mouths as bait. The lids and rims of the pitchers are both treacherously slippery so any critters landing there will ski briefly to the well of death, where the marinating fluid, which can have a pH as low as 2 if its freshly secreted, will send them to their afterlife.

Just as a guide, I found that commercial undiluted white vinegar typically has a pH of 2.4 - you can always check out its effect on an ant if you are morbidly curious....

5 comments:

Hermes said...

Great pictures and it shows its no good having too rosy a picture of nature, unless you hate insects that is!

James Missier said...

When you mentioned about the massacre and genocide. I thought those pitcher plant was the victim.

You are very kind & compassionate towards these ants. I wish this genocide take place in my garden, been having war with ants who seemed to farming mealy bug all over my plants.
Thanks for visiting my blog & comments.

Emily said...

That is a truly remarkable kill number! Thanks for the documentation - otherwise I might've thought you were exaggerating!

Hort Log said...

Hi Emily,

actually I poured the ants into the trap....no just kidding ^_^

C & A said...

You don't have to post this, but genocide is when a species mass-murders those of its own kind, just for future reference. Silly little semantic things, but truly, your blog is magnificent. I wish I could see all of these things in person like you!

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