Heliamphora ( Sun Pitchers )

These grow on the mountains in Venezuela where they receive lots of sun, humidity, water and cool temperatures, which drop significantly at night. All of which makes them a challenging plant to grow. I’ve slaughtered many.

First discovered in 1839 by explorers there are many species. The mountains are flat topped and widely separated leading to many similar, but different plants.

These are carnivores, but use a bacteria in the pitcher fluid to break down the insects instead of producing their own enzymes. There was and is an ongoing debate as to how carnivorous they are.

Outside through the Houston fall-winter-spring they do very well. It’s too warm in the summer for Heliamphoras to be outside. I have two growing quite well in terrariums, one on a windowsill that gets lots of morning light, one in a niche that has a light directly over the terrarium.

Humidity seems to override all other things when growing Sun Pitchers. Bright light is next and like all carnivorous plants distilled water is best. I’ve not found a daily temperature change to be important for growing, it might be for flowering? Every time I’ve removed it from the terrarium it’s begun to die back, starting by browning at the top edge of the pitchers.

Nepenthes Coccinea

Nepenthes rafflesiana x ampullaria x mirabilis

This is one of those plants that was every where and now is very difficult to track down. It was loved by the Victorians. Scientific American had a story on it in 1882. The only seller I’ve found is Lee’s Botanical Gardens, if anyone knows of any other sources please let me know. I’d hate for this plant to vanish.

I find it likes a mostly shady window with about an hour or two of direct sun. Like all my neps this one is growing in an orchid basket filled with sphagnum and sitting in a dish with an 1″ or so of distilled water.

It is an American hybrid which made its way across to England and the rest of Europe. I’m told it started the Nepenthes craze that followed.

I had a bit of a time getting it settled in the house, it likes humidity but is far too large to fit in a terrarium. Most so since its a climber.

I’ve also been told there is more than one version of Nep. Coccinea around. I was unable to adapt the other version to windowsill life.

Nepenthes Kat Lester

I find this is much like a Mirabilis, that’s almost certainly in its parentage. Keep it warm, not too much light, and slowly adapt it to the windowsill. They seem to need high humidity while they are young. Pitchers vary from green to red on the same plant. It sends up lots of basil shoots and prefers hanging to climbing. There are often a dozen pitchers on the plant.

Lee’s Botanicals cultivated this plant, I think they may be the only source. I’ve not been able to find any other mention of it.

Nepenthes Truncata

Test tube babies

Nepenthes Truncata at PetFlyTrap.com

Nepenthes truncata gets its name from the square ending of the leaf before the pitcher. It is native to all of the Philippines where it grows in the hilly areas close to sea level. Pitchers can reach 16″ long. A botanical garden in France recorded it eating a mouse. I’m told it loves to eat wasps.

I had been growing it under a fluorescent light and on a windowsill. It’s now in a very bright south western window and it appears to love the sun much more than my other Nepenthes. A grower in Italy reports it can handle highland temps, I’m not sure I’d risk trying it.

The first reference to it I could find was in the 1911 Pennsylvania Botanical Society meeting notes.

I found mine from a seller of test tube plants on eBay.

Nepenthes Mirabilis var Globosa aka Nepenthes Viking

I slaughtered several of these before I figured them out. I find they need a lot of humidity to start. It’s best to keep them in a terrarium while they are small and ever so slowly adapt them to life on a windowsill.

I find they like less light than my other Nepenthes. They grow in a window that gets filtered morning light with a fluorescent lamp making up for the small amount of sunlight.

Pitchers are green to red, on the same plant, round with wings and grow on very long tendrils. Often there are a dozen or more pitchers. I’m not sure how large they will get, I’ve not seen photos of any more than 3″ or so in size.

The plants tend to be busy, sending up many basil shoots. They are hanging rather than climbing Nepenthes.

Mirabilis is a lowland plant, common to south east Asia. It has the widest know distribution of any of the Nepenthes. Mirabilis Var Globosa is only native to one island and the Thai mainland. There are dozens of natural hybrids. The habitat was wiped out in the 2004 tsunami. Plants are being cloned in labs in an attempt to re-establish the population.

Sarracenia psittacina aka Parrot pitcher plant

This is a plant I didn’t much like a first, but it has a way of growing on you. The twisted shape and bright red add interest to dish gardens.

First discovered in the mid 1700s, it’s not recorded in detail until ~1800. It is a US carnivorous pitcher plant that grows along the top of the Gulf Coast. It is very similar to the Darlingtonia californica, luring insects with nectar then using a small entrance to trap insects in a long tube. There are downward pointing hairs to keep the insect in should it manage to find the the exit. Eventually the insects drown in the water in the bottom, narrow section of the pitcher.

This is the only known ‘lobster pot’ mechanism for insect capture in carnivorous plants. It’s thought that this allows them to catch prey whether the pitchers are above or below the water.

It grows in the bogs and swamps of pine forests, often submerged, the leaves grow horizontally, so keep it wet and give it lots of light. ( early leaves may grow upright, later leaves getting more horizontal until they are flat so use a wide pot )

There is a moth, Exyra that lives inside the pitcher, feeding on the nectar and not getting eaten.

Does not go dormant in the winter, benefits from occasional habitat fires.

More info:
Sarracenia psittacina, at Botany.org

Nepethes Mata Hari

This was an eBay purchase, it’s a cultivar between Splendiana x ventricosa created by Manny Herrera. It’s the first Nepenthes I had that flowered. I believe they are known to flower often.

I grow it in a window, in an open orchid pot that’s filled with sphagnum. I had it in an east window last year. This winter it’s in a full afternoon sun window and it seems happier. It may not like it so much come summer? I keep a half inch to an inch of distilled water in the dish the pot is sitting in.

It took a little while to settle in, putting out flowers rather than pitchers the first summer, then didn’t do much until a few months ago. Now it’s putting out leaves and pitchering regularly.

It looks like it’s going to be a climber rather than bushy. The pitchers are always full of bugs, the climbers seem to be better at attracting prey than the bushier Nepenthes.