Translation of the original German introduction by Ernst Haeckel:
Division of Phanerogamae or Anthophyta (Blumenpflanzen); - main class of Angiospermae (Decksamige); - class of Dicotyleae (Zweisamenlappige); - legion of Sarracenieae (Krugpflanzen); - family of Nepenthaceae (Kannenpflanzen).
Nepenthes melamphora (Reinward). The purplish-brown Nepenthacea of Insulinde.
The kind of Nepenthacea (“pitcher plant”) belongs to those most peculiar carnivorous plants; their great and multiple importance was discovered in the second half of the 19. Century only. By now about fifty different species of this magnificent kind are known; they all live in the tropical regions of the Eastern hemisphere in marshy soil, most of them on the islands of the Malayan Archipelago. The beautiful variety illustrated here was found on 4. January 1901 near the waterfalls of Tjiburrum (“Rotenbach”), in one of the most magnificent jungles of the island of Java; it was drawn, true to life, in the laboratories of the neighbouring Tjibodas (“Weissenbach”), presented here by about one third smaller compared to the original. The odd plant grows there in huge quantities along the banks of the wild water creek Rotenbach and climbs on trees in multiple branched-off bush lianas. The pitcher-shaped, splendidly coloured and lined appendages of the twigs hanging down from the branches of the entwined trees and looking out invitingly in between the green leaves are not flowers of Nepenthes but the upper parts of leaf petioles that are equipped to catch insects, spiders and other small animals.
The leaf of the climbing pitcher plant consists of four parts of which three actually belong to the petiole. The lowest part, attached with broad base to the stalk, is shaped like a simple, green, ovoid or broad lanceolate leaf. The second member has the usual shape of a slender, cylindrical petiole. The third part is the most striking one, resembling an egg-shaped pitcher or a slender jar with the mouth turned upwards. This opening is closed by the fourth part that corresponds to the leaf blade, a flat, heart-shaped lid fixed to the rim of the opening just like the lid of a beer mug. In younger leaves (see the figure below) the lid rests firmly on the opening; once it bursts open later on it will not lie tightly again but arches over the opening like a canopy, preventing rainwater to get into the pitcher.
The pitcher itself with its walls being very firm and elastic appears organized as an animal trap of a highly refined kind, catching insects and other small animals that it eats and digests. The latter are attracted by the light reddish coloration with dark purple spots that make the pitcher appear like a flower. The chondroid rim of its open mouth is thickened, delicately corrugated and richly occupied with hair; it secretes a sweet honey-like juice. This juice is to be found on the belly side of the pitcher as well, in between two rows of hair that stand on two parallel protruding combs. Attracted by the sweet lips of the ‘honey-mouth’ the insects try to enter the interior of the tempting pitcher. Here doom awaits them. The interior surface of the pitcher is extremely smooth, just like wax-polish, in its upper third part, right beneath the protruding, notched rim. The caught animals slide without any support over this slippery surface down into the digestive liquid that is excreted by glands attached to the wall in the lower part of the pitcher. This liquid is a digestive juice with strong effect composed of acids and a pepsin-like ferment, similar to the gastric juice in animals. The more animals get trapped and stimulate the sensitive interior surface at the base of the pitcher with their movements the more digestive liquid is secreted. Within short time this carnivorous plant dissolves the digestible substances of the trapped animals, living on their flesh and blood through absorption.
The small flowers of Nepenthenes, closely related to our local “carnivorous plants”, the small Droserayea and Aristolochia, appear unsightly, similar to the flower bunches of our elder (Syringa); they are not illustrated here. The climbing, ligneous stalk of the kind illustrated here is fixed with small brown roots and carries ‘pitcher leaves’ in the form of wreaths or whorls, distributed in fixed intervals. The liquid in the abdominal pouches contained in the specimen illustrated here a diversity of small insects (flies, beetles, bees) as well as a few spiders; they were partly dead already, more or less digested, partly desperately trying to escape from the trap.
Translation by VR Translators Bangalore.
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