Little Wonders Series’ Fifth Episode

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual

The Carnivorous Pitcher Plant
Kingdom: Plantae (Plants)
Subkingdom: Embryophyta
Division: Tracheophyta (Vascular Plants)
Subdivision: Spermatophyta (Seed Plants)
Class: Angiosperms (Flowering Plants)
Subclass: Monocotyledons (Monocots)
Families: Nepenthaceae and Sarraceniaceae

There’s more to this Pitcher Plant’s leaf than meets the eye. The deeply folded leaf that resembles to a pitcher stores a sweet-smelling juice can actually lure insects into its mouth. When an unwary insect goes into the pitcher to sip the liquid, the inevitable happens: It can no longer go out because it just flailed helplessly in the fluid. Just like animals with canines, the pitcher plant minces the poor thing through the juice in it. This liquid is no ordinary nectar; it contains chemicals similar to bile that aids in its slow mincing of the prey until it completely dissolves. The poor insect then becomes a part of the very juice it tried to drink.

Another unusual thing is that it actually took millions of years before these simple, harmless leaves became carnivorous. Nature itself favored the growth of leaves with larger dents until it became like the thing you see in the photo. The plant evolved because it has found that eating small insects could give its body the necessary proteins, nitrogen, and other minerals that it couldn’t easily suck from the soil.

You might be thinking that when it’s raining, the leaves might get choked from taking too much rain water. Well, according to what I read, the plant can readily defend himself from this possible danger through the use of its operculum — the lid that is positioned right on top of each of these pitcher-like structures. Operculum acts like an umbrella to prevent too much water from penetrating into the pitcher when it’s raining.

For more unusual information about this plant, visit this site: www.carnivorous plants.com.

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The Mystical Mountain of Maria Makiling

Background

Mt. Makiling is a popular hiking destination. The two major trails begin at the UPLB College of Forestry and Brgy. San Miguel, Sto. Tomas, Batangas. The UPLB trail is more commonly used, taking 4–5 hours to reach the summit (Peak 2). However, this trail is closed as of October 2007 due to trail damage wrought by Typhoon Xangsane on September 2006. The other trail from Sto. Tomas passes by other peaks, is more difficult, and requires 6–7 hours to reach the summit. Both trails are generally established and safe, although throughout the years there have been occasional reports of fatal accidents and injuries, especially on the Sto. Tomas side” (wikipedia.com).

Special Concerns

“During the rainy season, Mt. Makiling is infested with limatik, especially between 600-1000 MASL. Be careful also with the plants and trees, some of them, such as the poison ivy varieties, have pruritic (itch-causing) substances, or thorns. There are reported sightings of snakes but these have become rare nowadays. There are no water sources beyond the Nursery, it is advisable to bring at 2 liters up. Trails can get very slippery on the final 200 meters. But there are station signs from 1-30 (yellow metal cards) — if you do not see one for 30 minutes, review your tracks. Cellphone signal, for its part, is ample in the mountain. Sun cover is so complete there’s no need to wear sunblock. Rain protection is more important, since sudden showers are common in Mt. Makiling” (pinoymountaineer.com).

Notes

Whatever the stories say, there are only three things I remember about Mt. Makiling when I conquered it: astounding views, the pitcher plants and the threat of limatik (blood leeches) inhabiting the “offal” of the mountain. The latter may have prevented me from savoring the place literally but it was not enough to kill the agog spirit of adventurer in me. No wonder the mountain is probably the most preserved in the country because of this mighty army of limatik.

- Mt. Makiling is my sixth subdued mountain (03 August 2010).

For more information (special concerns, how to get to the place, trivia, climbing notes, etc.), click thiswebsite: pinoymountaineer.com.

PS: GE X5