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Found: A Colorful Carnivore You Can Totally Keep As A Houseplant

In the wild, you’ll find highland and lowland varieties of tropical pitcher plants, explains Domonick Gravine, the owner of Redleaf Exotics, a carnivorous plant nursery that specializes in Nepenthes. The highland varieties are more tolerant of cooler temperatures at night, while the lowland varieties prefer more heat.

What makes both types of Nepenthes special is the way they have adapted to survive in their native habitats. These plants have long grown in nutrient-poor soil, so they’ve needed to devise other methods for getting valuable minerals. That’s where the “pitcher” part of their name comes in; Over time, Nepenthes have developed modified leaves that lure and trap prey.

These funky leaf sacs look like pitchers of water, and each one can hold up to 3.5 liters of digestive fluid (that’s nearly 15 cups worth!). Once the plant catches an animal, it digests it in this pitcher fluid to extract the nutrients it isn’t getting from its soil.

Nepenthes come in all shapes and sizes and they can sustain themselves using this unique pitcher adaptation for a long, long time. Carnivorous plant specialist Damon Collingsworth notes that he’s kept his first Nepenthes for over 30 years now, and the nursery he owns, California Carnivores, has ones dating back to the Victorian era.

These days, most tropical pitcher plants you find in stores will be hybrids that are bred to be more resilient, but you can find rarer species in specialty shops like Gravine’s and Collingsworth’s.

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