Nepenthes Raja - the giant Malaysian plant

Total rating:
Posted on Fri, Nov 07 2014 09:40:24

Nepenthes RajahNepenthes Rajah, or the Giant Malaysian Pitcher plant , is the largest and an extraordinary rare carnivorous plant. You can only find it on Mount Kinabalu, which is located in the north of Borneo, in the Malaysian part of the island, and some of them grow on the nearby mountains. 

Nepenthes Rajah is very demanding of its conditions. It requires the soil to be always moist and soft, which allows the underground water to seep through it . Raja settles only at altitudes from 1500 to 2650 meters.  Due to its location and demands, this plant is endangered.

Th first sample of Nepenthes Raja was found in 1858, and described in detail in 1859 by Joseph Hooker, who named  the plant in honor of James Brooke, the first white Rajah of Sarawak – one of the states of Malaysia, where the plant grows.

Hooker called Nepenthes Raja "one of the great sights he was able to encounter" amongst the wild plentitude of flora and fauna specimens of Borneo.

Europeans became so fond of this plant that they started breeding it at the end of the 19th century. Raja was one of the most desirable plants, still being quite a rare sight in the private gardens because of its price and the  plant's demands to be grown in special conditions. However, recent advances in the field of gardening made it relatively affordable and sustainable.

Nepenthes Rajah is a vine that reaches 6 meters in length with a flower which is up to 35 centimeters in height and 16 in width. The flower has 2.5 liters of digestive fluid inside, its top part is always open and ready to receive guests for dinner. 

Nepenthes Rajah traps and eats insects, small vertebrates and even mammals. Sometimes you can find rats inside of it. Among the victims of this carnivorous plant are sick frogs, lizards, mice, and birds, however, the main diet of this plant is insects, mostly ants.

Surprisingly though, there are some insects that Nepenthes likes and doesn't devour – it cooperates with them on a mutually beneficial basis. For example, some species of mosquitoes help the plant to reproduce, and vice versa.  Another peculiar characteristic of this pitcher plant is its relationship with local shrews – the plant evolved to attract them by its size and shape. When a shrew sees such a wondrous thing, it runs to it and claims the plant as its territory by defecating directly into the cup. This keeps Nepenthe happy, because the poop provides it with valuable nitrogen. It is possible that the plant evolved to its present state exactly due to this interesting co-existence with the shrews.

You can visit Mount Kinabalu National park and see this wondrous plant with your own eyes.

Gallery: Nepenthes Raja - the giant Malaysian plant

Location on map:

Read more about Malaysia off the beaten path

Leave a comment