Most carnivorous plant enthusiasts have a particular El Dorado specimen that they dream of raising. It might be the corkscrew plant Genlisea. With others, it’s the South African sundew impersonator Roridula, with its symbiotic ambush bugs and resinous droplets. The one that everyone talks about, in tones usually reserved for telling the priest at church that his fly is open, is the Sulawesi pitcher plant Nepenthes hamata.
This isn’t just because the plant is notoriously hard to keep in propagation, as it cannot handle excessively high temperatures or fluctuations in humidity. No, it’s because of its pitchers. Nepenthes first grow a set of lower pitchers, usually adapted to snagging ground-based or poorly flying prey. After a time, the plant starts to vine around vertical supports, and the pitchers, known imaginatively as “upper pitchers,” are usually wildly different in appearance and shape from the lower pitchers. In most cases, as experts have noted, if the lower and upper pitchers were discovered separately, botanists would have every reason to believe that they came from separate species, and in fact many species described in the Victorian period were declared nomen dubiam when the parent plant was identified.
And such is the case with Nepenthes hamata. All Nepenthes have a distinct lip or peristome along the mouth of the pitcher, and some can bear all sorts of flares, ruffles, and ridges. N. hamata‘s lower pitchers look a bit gruesome, as if someone welded a bandsaw blade to the peristome. The upper pitchers, though, are a true nightmare, being covered with sharp inward-curving hooks, and I tend to describe them to Nepenthes beginners as “resembling a condom designed by Clive Barker”.
Anyway. My friends at Sarracenia Northwest already make sure that the song I’m usually humming in the greenhouse is Ministry’s “Just One Fix”. They now have N. hamata specimens for sale. Really…never mind the track marks…I can quit at any time…
(I’d also like to add that Doug Bradley, the actor best known for playing the Pinhead Cenobite in the Hellraiser films, is a regular guest at Texas Frightmare Weekend. Sadly, he only browses for a few moments at the Triffid Ranch booth before moving on: I think the plants scare him.)