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You can’t talk about plants and Borneo in the same breath without mentioning pitcher plants.

Nepenthes, as they should more properly be known, are something of a Borneo speciality. There are 32 known varieties on the island: many are found nowhere else on earth.

In case you’ve been hiding your head under a pile of sand for the last decade or so, pitcher plants are famous for ‘eating’ live creatures. Those quotation marks are advised: actually what they do is dissolve flies, insects and anything up to a small mouse in digestive juices held in those curious jug-like bladders. They may be ghoulish but there’s a certain fascination about them: and maybe even beauty. They do also flower (safely high above where the pitchers grow, so beneficial pollinating insects aren’t accidentally eaten by their host).

I wasn’t visiting Borneo at the best time to see pitchers, as the dry season was well set in and most of them had dried into brown, papery husks: but there were a few spectacular specimens about which gave me just a glimpse of what might be out there.

Nepenthes ampullaria

…and again


Nepenthes burbidgeae


… and an unknown variety, possibly another N. burbidgeae but mis-labelled as N. rajah – the largest pitcher plant in Borneo and one I’d dearly love to see (about four times the size of this one). I didn’t have a chance to root around for any other labels as I was a little preoccupied in preventing the Chinese lady next to me throwing stones in to this one’s mouth to see if she could make it close. I gave her a very polite lecture on the habits of pitcher plants and the difference between them and Venus flytraps, and she was rather touchingly grateful and thereafter assumed I was a tour guide. She was very smiley, though obviously habitually misguided.

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