Pitcher plant

A large pitcher plant isn't cheap but probably worth it, if only to upset vegetarians.

A pitcher of health

Vegetarians are a bit odd. I’m sorry if that upsets a few leaf chewers on the island, but it has to be said. We’re not cows or sheep – we’re omnivores; we’re designed to eat both plants and meat.

All we have to do is look at our teeth to see that we’re supposed to eat the lot. It doesn’t take a professor of dentistry to figure out that human teeth are clearly designed for an omnivorous diet; incisors for slicing, and molars and premolars for grinding. It’s a dental thing.

So why can some vegetarians be so incredibly annoying? It’s obviously nothing to do with the fact that they simply must have specially prepared meals when eating out. “It might have been cooked in the same pan as your beef stroganoff” kind of thing. Or the fact that they continually preach to non-believers such as myself in an attempt to persuade meat eaters to change their eating habits. Believe me, I don’t find your plate of tofu surprise in the least bit appealing.

Then there’s the whole idea of giving themselves a name because they eat a certain type of food. Am I an eateverythingarian? Of course not – it would just be silly. So why do they? They’re in the same league as some of the buffoons that call people ‘sexists’ if they stand up on a train or hold open a door for a lady. You just can’t win. But I digress.

Vegetarians claim that “their diet is better than your diet”; a hardly subtle referral to us shameful meat-eaters. I honestly had no idea that all these people were qualified nutritionists, with an intimate knowledge of the diets that the rest of us enjoy. I must remember to take note of their medical knowledge more seriously.

Some vegetarians are even a little confused. I’m no expert in this regard, but isn’t it kind of written in the veggie rulebook that you’re not supposed to eat erm… meat? Thought so. Then how come so many of these people eat fish? It’s not OK to shoot a cow, ending its life instantly, but fine to take a fish from the water then wait for it to suffocate slowly?

Vegans are even worse in the annoying stakes – their pale little mouths just don’t stop extolling the virtues of consuming grains and bean curd. Having said that, if I forced myself to eat nuts, leaves, bread and tofu on a daily basis, I would hardly be blessed with the most positive outlook on life.

Those that refuse to eat any form of food that emanated from an animal so often preach that it’s the natural way; the humane way. According to my dictionary, that’s defined as characterized by kindness, mercy, or compassion, by the way. Could somebody pop over to Africa and have a chat with all those wicked, rotten lions. Perhaps someone could point out to them that perhaps all those gazelles don’t really want to be killed and eaten.

The carnivores of the savannah are hardly unique – after all, meat-eating animals exist the world over. Plants of course would never be that nasty. They’re far more civilized. All they do is suck up water from the ground and sit there collecting sunlight. They could hardly be meat eaters. But, as with most things, there’s an exception to every rule.

This part of the world has one of the most distinctive carnivorous plants out there – the pitcher plant, or xxxxx in Thai. They’re bizarre things. Insects beware – they’ll have you, and you won’t escape. Am I really putting out an appeal to bugs? I must have spent too much time with veggies recently.

Nepenthes, or monkey cups, are some of the more common pitcher plants we get around hare, natives of south east Asia, India, Madagascar and Australia. Most are vines, but some remain compact and don’t reach out much.

The ‘pitcher’ that gives the plant its name is actually a huge swelling of the mid-vein in the leaf. Insects are attracted to this because of sweet nectar secretions and the coloration of the pitcher. The slippery rim and the inner walls of the pitcher encourage insects to fall into the digestive fluid at the bottom of the rather clever trap, where it meets an untimely demise.

The plant’s nutrients are absorbed from this unappealing soup that results. Most inhumane. The name ‘monkey cups’ comes from monkeys occasionally drinking the fluid in the pitchers, by the way. These are obviously monkeys that don’t exactly call the waiter over to complain about a fly in their soup.

These things are highly ornamental, despite their unseemly habits. The leaves may be a dull green and look similar on all species but the pitcher is unique in each species. They may appear exotic and delicate but actually, they’re not. They’re easily reproduced from cuttings or seed and are quite rapid growers.

Nepenthes pitcher plants generally like bright light without too much direct sun. About 50% sun or dappled shade is good – that black shade netting stuff is perfect. Sun burn usually appears as red or dead zones on the upper most growth, facing the sun or light.

Water your pitcher plant regularly, without letting it dry out completely. They benefit from moist soil and the odd drenching to wash away any accumulated salts. Use relatively clean water such as rain, distilled or purified water. At 10 baht per giant bottle, your watering bill will hardly break the bank.

After deciding exactly where you want your pitcher plant to grow, add a little water (about one or two cm) to the pitchers, as while they were transported, the fluid that should be present often gets dumped out; sometimes these parched pitchers will dry out and die, and refilling helps combat this.

Pitchers and leaves die naturally as the plant grows and these should be trimmed off for maximum growth. Since many Nepenthes are vines, you might even want to prune the green stems back to encourage side shoots and a fuller, bushier plant. The vines can also be trained up a stake or cage (as in the picture; 5,000 baht’s worth taken at the recent flower show at Saphan Hin) or left to hang low in an elevated container such as a hanging basket.

Can you eat pitcher plants? I haven’t a clue, to be honest. A far more amusing thought would be whether a veggie-type would. Or more correctly, could. Could a meat-eater possibly sit on the same plate as their nut cutlets and millet?  I wouldn’t have a problem, as I’m a staunch eateverythingarian. Except tofu, of course. Yeuch. Waiter…



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