You probably know about Nepenthes and Sarracenias, but Heliamphoras are a less often seen carnivorous plant. They are a little more rare, but gaining in popularity with carnivorous plant enthusiasts.
Heliamphoras are from the cloud forest tepuis of Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil. A tepui is an extremely tall, flat-topped mountain, towering over the rainforests of Venezuela. Tepui means “House of the Gods” due to their height. The 115 or so tepuis in Southeast Venezuela, are each isolated and not connected to any other mountains. They often have sheer rock faces up to 10,000’ tall and remain largely inaccessible to people, except by helicopter or rock-climbing. There are only a couple tepuis that are popular backpacking destinations.
At an extremely high altitude, plants and animals have adapted to completely different conditions than those in the surrounding forests down below. A tepui will have a Heliamphora species growing on it that has adapted to that particular tepui. Some species grow in small, colorful clumps , others species form huge masses that can be seen from an airplane. Others cling to small crevasses in the rock face. Not all Heliamphora grow on the tepui summits. Some species may grow around the base, still at a high elevations. They are very tough plants and with their pitchers clustering tightly together, they withstand extreme wind, rain, temperature changes, and the highest levels of direct sunlight of anywhere on earth!
Heliamphora pitchers contain fine, downward facing hairs which keep their prey from escaping. Some species only have a ring of hairs just above the water line, keeping the prey down. All Heliamphora have a nectar spoon that secretes a sweet nectar to attract insects and small animals.The pitchers have slits on the side to help regulate the amount of water inside, and can be very colorful and beautiful. The flowers are also really nice, though not necessary for reproduction. For these plants, though they produce seed, they mostly reproduce vegetatively through buds on a rhizome-like subterranean stem.
This is a very satisfying plant to grow in a sunny spot, and in a tray of sphagnum moss with distilled or R.O. water. And be sure to watch Stewart McPherson’s fascinating video, Heliamphoras, the Marsh Pitcher Plants (see below). Stewart is an explorer, a field biologist, writer and photographer, well-known among carnivorous plant enthusiasts.