I didn’t scale Tambuyukon just to get to the peak. I also wanted to see some of the rare pitcher plants growing in the area. I’ve read about a few species, and I was curious to see them as they were in the natural. I have read that the Nepenthes Rajah, one of the largest (if not the largest) nepenthes would be growing in abundance in Tambuyukon. If it was true, I wanted to see the pitcher plant with my own eyes. Before the trek began, I was excited to learn that there is a camp site called Kem Rajah—so named because of the nepenthes found in the area. When I was there, I was excited when I saw the pitcher plants. I wish I had been walking faster and had more time to spend in the area. Though I saw a few, I only had the opportunity to photograph one of them. Seeing the Nepenthes Rajah was truly an eye opener. I knew the pitcher plant would be big, but I was still taken aback. It didn’t conjure up the kind of feeling as seeing one’s own firstborn coming into the world, but I was moved. I stayed with the pitcher plant for only about 7 minutes—I wish I stayed longer but others were waiting for me—but those moments surely moved me to have a deeper appreciation for the wonders of Nature.
Since coming back, I had some time to read up more about the Nepenthes Rajah—I am still looking for materials. From what I have read, I learned that the Nepenthes Rajah I photographed on Tambuyukon was probably not yet an adult. While I thought it was big, it seems that there are larger ones—as big as to have a rat drown in them—out there. And the more I read, I also begin to find it interesting to note the differences in the descriptions of the same pitcher plants over time. So far, I only have pockets of information and writings, but I thought it’d be interesting to post two passages I found.
Here is a description of Nepenthes Rajah by Spenser St. John in a book published in 1862:
…the ground was covered with the magnificent pitcher plants,…. This one has been called Nepenthes Rajah, and is a plant about four feet in length, with broad leaves stretching on every side, having the great pitchers resting on the ground in a circle about it. Its shape and size are remarkable. I will give the measurement of a small one, to indicate the form: the length along the back was nearly fourteen inches; from the base to the top of the column in front was five inches; and its lid was a foot long by four inches broad, and of an oval shape. Its mouth was surrounded by a plaited pile, which near the column was two inches broad, lessening in its narrowest part to three-quarters of an inch. The plaited pile of the mouth was also undulating in broad waves. Near the stem of the pitcher is four inches deep, so that the mouth situated upon it is a triangular manner. The colour of an old pitcher was a deep purple, but was generally mauve outside, very dark indeed in the lower part, though lighter toward the rim; the inside is of the same colour, but has a kind of glazed and shiny appearance. The lid is mauve in the centre, shading to green at the edges. The stems of the female flowers we found always a foot shorten than those of the male, and the former were far less numerous than the latter. It is indeed one of the most astonishing productions of nature.
And here is a description of Nepenthes Rajah written by Adrian Slack more than a century later:
Shaped like a lavatory and big enough to hold a rugby football, the grotesque pitchers of Nepenthes rajah are the biggest in the genus…
This plant is a native of Borneo and is noteworthy for producing the largest pitchers of the entire genus. Though few could call them graceful, there is a peculiar fascination in their strange form, unusual colouring and sheer size….pitchers are 6-14 inches (15-35 cm) long and by 4-7 inches (10-18 cm) wide. They are rather like deep kettledrums in shape….pitcher has two narrow fringed wings, and the mouth is elliptical and steeply oblique. The wide rim is somewhat flattened, the outer margin projecting considerably over the pitcher walls, the edges waved to form several cog-like projections or spurs. The lid is oval and unusually large, usually exceeding the mouth in size. It is concave, and the midrib forms a keel for some distance from the base….pitchers are scarlet to purple. A further peculiarity of the plant is the tendrils do not emanate from the end of the leaf blade as in the other species, but descend from the underside 1 inch (2.5 cm) or so before this point.
I know of more recent descriptions by a certain Charles Clark, but I have yet to get any of his books. Perhaps when I get to them, I will revisit this post or write more about those sexy-looking pitcher plants. (*OK, I admit the Nepenthes Rajah isn’t all that sexy when compared to those I found on Irau).
Spenser St. John. Life in the Forests of the Far East Or, Travels in Northern Borneo. Smith, Eder and Co., 1862.
Adrian Slack. Carnivorous Plants. MIT Press, 1980.