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Type in the search term “periuk kera” on Twitter today and you will find many Malaysians criticizing the sale of lemang periuk kera.
Several parties are said to be selling the delicacy – a glutinous rice dish cooked using the cupped leaves of pitcher plants instead of the more common bamboo stick and banana leaf combo – online due to restricted movement orders (SAYS, 2020).
Most recently, a local vendor in Kuala Kangsar reportedly sold close to 1,000 pieces of lemang periuk kera per day since the Movement Control Order was first enacted in Malaysia (Astro Awani, 2020).
This is despite extinction fears for the rare carnivorous plant already under threat from deforestation and demand for exotic plants (Bernama, 2019).
The Asian pitcher plant genus, Nepenthes, is said to contain the largest number of threatened taxa or populations (Carnivorous Plant Specialist Group, 2016).
For example, the Nepenthes rajah – native to Malaysia and the world’s largest carnivorous plant – is currently listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
As many social media users have pointed out, pitcher plants play a vital role in our ecosystem. But how exactly do these species of carnivorous plants contribute to the environment?
Here are some quick facts:
SOURCE OF NITROGEN
Many insectivorous plants with pitcher traps contain bacterial cultures that bind nitrogen – providing an essential source of nitrogen in areas low in the chemical element (ADAMED SmartUP, 2014)
WORKING WITH OTHER CARNIVORES
Instead of catching insects for themselves, some species lure in insects only for them to be eaten by animals such as frogs, small birds and shrews. These vertebrates then defecate into the plant’s pitcher – providing a constant and easy source of nitrogen for the plant (ADAMED SmartUP, 2014).
AN ECOSYSTEM ONTO ITSELF
Several organisms, from bacteria to vertebrates, can survive and even propagate in the traps of carnivorous pitcher plants. In fact, some inquilines (an animal that exploits the living space of another) can only be found in these pitcher traps (Annals of Botany, 2011).
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