sun-pitcher

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Rising thousands of meters into the air, the tepuis of South America have ingrained themselves into human culture for millennia. From the Pemon people, who believe that the spirits of their ancestors reside there, to Arthur Conan Doyle, whose 1912 novel “The Lost World” told a tale of explorers finding dinosaurs atop these mountains, these sandstone mesas boggle the mind. Even the word “tepui” means “house of the gods.”

It was always suspected that their isolated peaks were home to strange and peculiar flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. Indeed, explorations of these areas has turned up a menagerie of bizarre, endemic lifeforms. 

Probably one of the most exciting and peculiar organisms to be found atop these tepuis are the sun pitchers of the genus Heliamphora. A slight misnomer, the prefix “heli” was not meant to reference the Greek word “helios,” which means “sun” but rather “helos” meaning “marsh.” Instead of calling them sun pitchers we should really be calling them marsh pitchers. Either way, their strange appearance of the genus Heliamphora is truly a marvel of evolution. 

Related to our North American pitcher plants, the Heliamphoras are the only pitcher plants found in South America. There are about 23 species in total and, with more tepuis still to be explored, there will likely be more. Like all carnivorous plants, the consumption of animal matter has evolved in response to a lack of nutrients. Indeed, warm, humid air from the jungles below rise up the sides of the tepuis where it cools and condenses. As a result, the tops of the tepuis receive torrential downpours on a regular basis. Because of this, what little soil and nutrients can be found up there is quickly washed away. 

The pitchers of Heliamphoras are incredibly interesting structures. Like our North American species, the pitchers are actually modified leaves. The interesting part about this group is that, with the exception of perhaps only a couple of species, most Heliamphoras do not produce digestive juices. Instead, they rely on a community of invertebrates living within the traps to digest their victims for them. Nutrients is then absorbed from the waste of this inquiline community. It has also been noted that a variety of tree frogs will also take up residence in the pitchers and it is suspected that, while they are most likely eating the potential prey of the pitchers, they likely give back in the form of nutrient rich feces. 

As you can tell by the picture, unlike most other pitcher plants, the Heliamphoras do not have a conspicuous hood. Instead they have this odd, spoon-like structure where a hood would normally be. This is an extrafloral nectary. It produces sweet nectar that lures hapless insects into a precarious position above the pitcher where they often loose their foothold and fall to their deaths. Whereas this structure does quite well in attracting meals, it does next to nothing from shielding the pitchers from being filled up with rain. This is not a problem for the Heliamphoras. About halfway up each pitcher is a small pore that keeps the water in the pitcher at a constant level. 

While we may not have found any dinosaurs atop these mesas, the organisms we have discovered are as unique as they are magnificent. The unique conditions coupled with extreme isolation has created some incredible experiments in evolution. I sure hope one day I can be lucky enough to see these places in person. 

www.facebook.com/indefenseofplants



Photo Credit: Lucas Arrrrgh (http://bit.ly/1kQ2Y6F), Andreas Elis, Seb83, and Gerard Vigo

My Office Heliamphora Set-Up

A month or so ago, I decided to set up a small, 2.5 gallon tank in my office to display my small Heliamphora collection. So far, my four little plants have really liked it. The Heliamphora pulchella has put out a couple new pitchers and the Heliamphora heterodoxa x minor is following suit.

The tank is a standard 2.5 gallon fish tank with a glass cover. It is lit by an aquarium light which came with it on a 12 hour timer. I’m not sure of the lumens or Kelvin temperature of the bulb or lights, but, so far, the plants seem to like it. (It appears a bit bluer than the T5s). The back and one side of the tank is covered in mylar, which you can see above. Temperatures range from 60 at night (the constant temperature of the office) to, I’m guessing, somewhere around 75 during the day.

I’d love to add a few little tepui Drosera, Utricularia or Genlisea to the collection to change it up a little bit. I do have a D. esmeraldae, which I’ll try to get a couple leaf cuttings started on, but it would be great to get some D. roraimae, or another slightly easier Drosera, to add in. The only thing is that I have to keep this tank small because I don’t have that much room in this tank.
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Books and Cupcakes June Challenge

Day 20: Colours

I’ll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson

My True Love Gave to Me - Stephanie Perkins et al. 

Classic Fairytales - Hans Christian Andersen

The Manifesto on How to be Interesting -

Ketchup Clouds - Annabel Pitcher

My First Novel notebook 

shotfromguns asked:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Congrats on your latest full-sun voyage.

That’s such a nice way to put it! I should probably sign up for Earth’s member loyalty card or something to get frequent flyer miles. 

Thank you for being part of this latest sun tour (ooh, that reminds me, I should make sun tea tomorrow! omg what if i bought a sun tea pitcher for myself for my birthday) and even though you are a self-professed devoted killjoy your blog still makes me smile :)

except when you KILL MY JOY

just kidding i love you

like 90% of the time

when i’m not yelling “JUST LET ME HAVE THIS ONE THING” at my monitor

but i still care

xoxoxox

Little Red, growing slowly less coherent by the minute as insomnia meds kick in!!!

Sun Dong-yeol’s old teammate Yamamoto still plays at 50
#npb #ChunichiDragons [THE DONGA-A ILBO]It is small wonder since Yamamoto was a teammate of Sun when he was a star in Japanese pro baseball Chunichi Dragons in the late 1990s. Sun was the closing pitcher, and Yamamoto was the starting pitcher. Sun retired in 1999 and served as manager of Samsung …

#sun #plants #sarrancenia #venusflytrap #pitchers #sundew #cephalotus #chilliplants #bhutjolokia #hot #peppers #prariefire #growinginthesunshine #morning #summer #flowers #chinesepaperlanternchilli #nofilters by pearsonkev77 https://instagram.com/p/4leMHwwc3n/

Did you know you can buy a venus fly trap on amazon???
http://www.amazon.com/?tag=venusflytrapz-20

Sun Dong-yeol’s old teammate Yamamoto still plays at 50
#npb #ChunichiDragons [THE DONGA-A ILBO]It is small wonder since Yamamoto was a teammate of Sun when he was a star in Japanese pro baseball Chunichi Dragons in the late 1990s. Sun was the closing pitcher, and Yamamoto was the starting pitcher. Sun retired in 1999 and served as manager of Samsung …
Sun Dong-yeol’s old teammate Yamamoto still plays at 50
#npb #ChunichiDragons [THE DONGA-A ILBO]It is small wonder since Yamamoto was a teammate of Sun when he was a star in Japanese pro baseball Chunichi Dragons in the late 1990s. Sun was the closing pitcher, and Yamamoto was the starting pitcher. Sun retired in 1999 and served as manager of Samsung …