A pitcher plant in Borneo

Tropical pitcher plants

Tropical pitchers are cunningly carnivorous plants that lure prey into pitfall traps. Attractive colours, sugary nectar and sweet smells entice potential prey to the plants. Once inside the pitcher victims cannot escape the waxy sides, eventually falling into a liquid and drowning. Digestive acids in the liquid then turn these insects into a ‘soup’ from which glands absorb nutrients. Larger species of pitcher plant can even attract and digest mice and lizards.

There are over a hundred species of tropical pitcher plant, usually growing as climbing vines using trees for support. Mainly found in tropical Southeast Asia, most diversity is concentrated in the rainforests on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. It is alleged that monkeys drink rainwater out of the pitcher, giving them another name of ‘monkey cups’.

Scientific name: Nepenthes

Rank: Genus

Common names:

Monkey cup plants

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The Tropical pitcher plants can be found in a number of locations including: Asia, Australia, Madagascar. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.


The following habitats are found across the Tropical pitcher plants distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.


Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

BBC News about Tropical pitcher plants