The Cardamom Mountains rain forests are one of the largest, isolated and still mostly unexplored forests in southeast Asia. This mountain range has been carefully keeping species and lives unkonown to outside world due to lack of proper research. But there are recent efforts in this direction by researchers and sceintists to discover this hidden treasure of nature. One such successful mission is reported yesterday by Fauna and Flora International (FFI). The organization has discovered a new unique species which is a carnivorous pitcher plant. It is named as “Nepenthes holdenii“.
In 2008, British photographer and biologist, Jeremy Holden,contacted the first author to study an apparently undiagnosed Nepenthes that he observed on an isolated peak from the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia. This taxon was first observed during field surveys conducted for Fauna & Flora International (FFI) in the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary in February 2006. Populations were seen in four different locations around a single mountain system, all in dry, steep terrain characterised by open areas of tall grasses and pine trees at 600-750 meters above sea level. In August 2009, French botanist F.S. Mey visited Cambodia together with J. Holden in order to study and collect the unidentified Nepenthes. During this expedition, a second population of the taxon was found on a neighbouring peak. Studies of the two populations in situ emonstrated that the taxon possesses a unique combination of features that distinguish it from all other known Nepenthes taxa. Comparison of wild plants and herbarium material confirmed that this is an undescribed taxon. It appears to belong to a group of closely related Indochinese species that share similar ecological habitats. This new species is named as ‘Nepenthes holdenii’. The description of the new taxon Nepenthes holdenii brings the number of Cambodian Nepenthes species to five.
The large red and green pitchers that characterize ‘Nepenthes holdenii’ are actually modified leaves designed to capture and digest insects. The pitchers can reach up to 30 centimeters long. The carnivorous strategy allows the plants to gain additional nutrients and flourish in otherwise impoverished soils. A further unusual adaptation seen in this new species is its ability to cope with fire and extended periods of drought. Cambodia’s dry season causes forests to desiccate and forest fires are common. Nepenthes holdenii exploits the clearings caused by these regular blazes by producing a large underground tuber which sends up a new pitcher- bearing vine after the fires have passed.
This discovery has once more proved a need of deeper research into the Cardamom Mountains to find the treasure of biodiversity.