It has curled teeth and a hunger for devouring creatures.
Most important points:
- Botanists fear Albany pitcher plant under threat from poachers
- The carnivorous plant can only be found in small pockets on the south coast of WA
- How it became endemic to the south coast is still a mystery to scientists
The Albany pitcher plant eats its prey from insects and flies by trapping them with trickery, then dissolves them with enzymes.
Its incredible survival adaptation and appearance have made it one of the most sought after carnivorous plants by collectors around the world.
Curtin University botanist Adam Cross is an expert on the rare and endangered species.
“It’s a really distinctive plant…she has a huge appetite for ants,” said Dr. Cross.
“It’s one of the most unique and incredible elements of Western Australia’s incredible flora.”
Mystery of Species Appearance in WA
The ancient plant is only found in a small pocket on the south coast of WA and is estimated to be 55 million years old.
While many similar pitcher plants have thrived in the Americas and Asia, scientists don’t know how this plant became endemic to Western Australia.
“Perhaps the most incredible aspect of it is that it is indeed a pitcher plant like many of the other pitcher plant group, yet evolved completely independently of all those different types of pitcher plants,” he said.
The pitcher portion is about 5 inches long.
“They have those bad kinds of curled teeth over the opening of the jar, which is closed by a hood,” said Dr. Cross.
“That hood has some translucent windows in it, which trick insects into thinking it’s open air. They fly in through those windows and it disorients them, channeling them down into the trap fluid.”
Poachers a threat to species
Due to its rarity, it is highly sought after on the private flora market.
“Hundreds of individuals are taking them and selling them to the hobby market,” said Dr. Cross.
“The demand for Albany pitcher plants collected from the wild has been very high, there have been cases of people even coming off the highway to dig up hundreds and hundreds of individuals to pick them up and sell them on the hobby market. .
“People all over the world are now growing this plant for its uniqueness and its amazing color, shape and ecology.”
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