August 19th, 2009
03:33 PM ET

Botanists discover new rat-eating plant

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/08/18/meat.eating.plant/art.meat.eating.plant.jpg caption="Nepenthes northiana – the carnivorous pitcher plant prepares to tuck into a rat."]


Botanists believe they have discovered one of the world's largest carnivorous plants in Southeast Asia.

The giant pitcher plants were located on Mount Victoria in Palawan, central Philippines by a team led by UK botanist Stewart McPherson.

The second largest species, now called Nepenthes attenboroughii, has been named in honor of the UK's world-renowned natural history presenter Sir David Attenborough.

The new discovery measures up to 30 centimeters in diameter and is formed by a tendril which inflates into a large cup-shaped trap.

McPherson told CNN: "Around the mouth of the pitcher are secretions of nectar which attracts insects and small animals. The rim has lots of waxy downward-pointing ridges which help prey fall directly into the pitcher.

"The pitchers are half full of a liquid consisting of acids and enzymes which help break down its prey."

The insectivorous, sometimes carnivorous diet is crucial for the plants' survival says McPherson.

"These plants grow in really harsh areas where soil quality is very poor - often pure gravel or sand. Catching insects allows the plant to augment nutrients that it otherwise wouldn't have access to."

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Filed under: Beyond 360 • T1
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. natalie from cleveland

    that's bizarre...but cool

    August 20, 2009 at 2:16 am |
  2. Antonia Montana


    August 19, 2009 at 9:23 pm |
  3. Suzy Staffer

    Too bad it doesn't eat squirrel; I'm getting tired of the squirrel. Is it possible for you, Anderson, to replace the squirrel with a photo of Brett Favre? I may be sick of him in a few days too.

    Springfield, Missouri

    August 19, 2009 at 8:55 pm |
  4. Anna, HK

    Love plants, & I'm all for any natural measures that would in some way control pests populations.

    August 19, 2009 at 8:22 pm |
  5. Annie Kate

    Even plants don't like rats! This plant ought to be grown in more places – my backyard could use one. I hate rats and if they all got eaten I can't see that it would upset the applecart very much at all.

    August 19, 2009 at 7:22 pm |
  6. William in Sacramento, CA

    Looks like God and nature has created a better mouse catcher.

    August 19, 2009 at 6:37 pm |
  7. Donna Wood, Lil' Tennessee

    Whoa! That really is amazing! @lilibeth: I'm guessing it probably does eat other small animals. It would make sense, right? At the same time, it's kind of a scary thought, don't you think?

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    August 19, 2009 at 4:52 pm |
  8. Lilibeth

    Wow. Amazing. So much about the world we don't know. There are some rats in my backyard. I could use a plant like this (kidding). But does it eat other small mammals?

    Edmonds, Washington

    August 19, 2009 at 3:47 pm |