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The World's largest Carnivorous Plant

The World's largest Carnivorous Plant
 
 

ONCE lunch was finished, we climbed the stairs leading out of the small huts through the scrub climbing higher up the mountain through the cocoon of thick cloud. I walked with Geoff, and knowing that he had done the Inca Trail and Mount Kilimanjaro, I asked him how he was going. He said this track was a lot harder than either. Well that sounded encouraging. I was going to be doing the Inca Trail later this year, and this discussion was the seed for setting my sights for doing Mount Kilimanjaro next year for my fortieth birthday.

4.0 km, 2745m AMSL
4.0 km, 2745m AMSL

The staircase turned slightly after about a hundred metres before we reached a junction – the first we had seen all day. There are two ways up the mountain. One was the main track which we were following, and the other was the Mesilau trail, which was longer and starting at the information centre we had travelled to yesterday in search of the magnificent Nepenthes Raja. A faded and weathered sign pointed down the trail towards the Mesilau Resort with no indication of distance.

The Nepenthes Raja specimens we had seen had the largest pitchers in the world, but they were not the largest plants. Those plants were actually quite small despite their huge pitchers. On our way up the track Richard had told us about a huge Nepenthes Villosa specimen off the track. I was definitely keen to see it, as were Therese, Robert and Jessica.

Orchid
Orchid

A few metres along the track we suddenly found a very beautiful tiny white orchid in flower. It was very similar to one I had seen on Stewart Island at the bottom of New Zealand about a year earlier. The vegetation up here was a lot scrubbier than it had been previously. We were now in the ultramafic zone. The ultramafic zone is the area between the granite and the surrounding rock it had pushed up against. At the interface minerals had leached out to very high concentrations making the soil very poor for supporting plant life. This explained the sudden change from thick forest to subalpine scrub at the point where we had lunch.

Porter in the Mist
Porter in the Mist

We followed the Mesilau trail about a hundred metres along thankfully level ground before we stopped at a small goat track heading left up the hill. Richard told us there was only enough room at the top for two of us to go up. The ladies were a little uneasy about going first, so Robert and I went first.

The rough trail ascended steeply for about five metres before we reached the plant. The Nepenthes Villosa stood a good four metres high climbing the surrounding scrub. It would have been a good three to four metres in diameter. The pitchers were some of the best specimens I had ever seen. They were pale green as they were forming turning a pale lemon yellow before opening. The open ones gradually turned a bright brownish blood red, and absolutely magnificent with their distinctive collared lips. The pitchers that had lived out their days were black around the top. The blackness descended the pitchers gradually over time until they were completely black and dead.

Inside the massive Nepenthes Villosa
Inside the enormous Nepenthes Villosa

Robert and I took turns posing in an alcove in the plant. It was an amazing experience being inside the world’s largest carnivorous plant. Once we had photographed each other, we returned to the trail and waited as Jessica and Therese went up to the plant.

All was deathly silent for a few minutes until we heard the rustling sound of them returning. For a few moments there I thought they had been captured and eaten by the enormous plant. Thankfully they had survived intact.

Once we were all back together on the Mesilau track, we returned to the main track to continue our quest up the mountain.

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Date:

 

Location: Country:

 

Latitude: Longitude: Altitude:

18 May 2010

 

Mount Kinabalu

Malaysia

 

6°02'42"N
116°33'46"E
2645 - 2805m ASL

 

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