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Nepenthes distillatoria
One of the earliest published illustrations of a pitcher plant, showing "Utricaria vegetabilis zeylanensium" (N. distillatoria)
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Nepenthaceae
Genus: Nepenthes
Species: N. distillatoria
Binomial name
Nepenthes distillatoria
L. (1753)
Distribution of N. distillatoria.
  • Bandura zeylanica
    Burm. ex Brongn. (1824) nom.illeg.
  • Nepenthes chapmanii
    Balakr. (1970)
  • Nepenthes destillatoria
    Danser (1928) sphalm.typogr.
  • Nepenthes distillatoria
    auct. non L.: Brion (1855)
    [=N. madagascariensis]
  • Nepenthes distillatoria
    auct. non L.: Jack (1835)
    [=N. gracilis]
  • Nepenthes distillatoria
    auct. non L.: Jeanneney (1894)
    [=N. vieillardii]
  • Nepenthes distillatoria
    auct. non L.: R.Grah. (1827)
    [=N. khasiana]
  • Nepenthes distillatoria
    auct. non L.: Steud. (1841)
    [=N. mirabilis]
  • Nepenthes distillatoria
    auct. non L.: Wall. (1828)
    [=N. distillatoria/N. gracilis]
  • Nepenthes hirsuta var. glabrescens
    W.G.Sm. (1882)
  • Nepenthes hirsuta var. glabrescens rubra
    auct. non Hort. ex Rafarin: Nichols. (1892)
  • Nepenthes indica
    Poir. (1797) nom.illeg.
  • Nepenthes rubra
    auct. non Hort. ex Rafarin: Nichols. (1886)
  • Nepenthes smithii
    Beck (1895) nom.illeg.
  • Nepenthes speciosa
    Hort. ex Beck (1895) nom.illeg.
  • Nepenthes trichocarpa
    auct. non Miq.: Hort. ex Hort.Bednar in sched. (1993)
  • Nepenthes zeylanica
    (Burm. ex Brongn.) Raf. (1836)
  • Nepenthes zeylanica var. rubra
    auct. non Hort. ex Rafarin: Nichols. (1877)
  • "Bandura cingalensium"
    Ray (1686)
  • "Bandura zingalensium"
    Breyne (1680)
  • "Miranda herba"
    Bartholinus (1677)
  • "Nepenthes ceylanicum flore minore"
    Breyne (1689)
  • "Planta mirabilis distillatoria"
    H.N.Grimm (1682)
  • "Utricaria vegetabilis zeylanensium"
    Plukenet (1696)

Nepenthes distillatoria (pronounced /nɨˈpɛnθiːz dɨˌstɪləˈtɔəri.ə/, from New Latin from Latin: destillo = to distill, -oria = adjectival ending; something from which a liquid is distilled, i.e., pitcher) is a tropical pitcher plant endemic to Sri Lanka. It was the second Nepenthes species to be described and the first to be formally named under the Linnaean system of taxonomy. It is the type species of the genus.


Botanical history

N. distillatoria was the second Nepenthes species to be described, after N. madagascariensis. In 1677, Bartholinus made brief mention of it under the name Miranda herba, Latin for "marvellous herb".[1] Three years later, Dutch merchant Jacob Breyne referred to this species as Bandura zingalensium, after a local name for the plant.[2] Bandura subsequently became the most commonly used name for the tropical pitcher plants, until Linnaeus coined Nepenthes in 1737.[3]

N. distillatoria was again described in 1683, this time by Swedish physician H. N. Grimm.[4] Grimm called it Planta mirabilis destillatoria or the "miraculous distilling plant", and was the first to clearly illustrate a tropical pitcher plant.[3] Three years later, in 1686, English naturalist John Ray quoted Grimm as saying:[5]

The root draws up moisture from the earth which with the help of the sun's rays rises up into the plant itself and then flows down through the stems and nerves of the leaves into the natural utensil to be stored there until used for human needs. [translated from Latin in Pitcher-Plants of Borneo][3]

Linnaeus used Grimm's original specific epithet when naming N. distillatoria in 1753.


N. distillatoria is endemic to Sri Lanka and is the only Nepenthes species recorded from the island. It grows in waterlogged open scrub, along road embankments and other cleared areas, and in forest. N. distillatoria occurs from sea-level to 700 m altitude.[6]

Due to its isolation, N. distillatoria has no known natural hybrids.

Infraspecific taxa

Two infraspecific taxa of N. distillatoria have been described, although they are no longer considered valid.

  • Nepenthes distillatoria var. rubra (auct. non Hort. ex Rafarin: Nichols.) Hort.Veitch ex Macf. (1908)
  • Nepenthes distillatoria vera D.Moore (1872) nom.illeg.


  1. ^ Bartholinus 1677. Miranda herba. Acta Medica et Philosophica Hafniensa 3: 38.
  2. ^ Breyne, J. 1680. Bandura zingalensium etc. Prodromus Fasciculi Rariorum Plantarum 1: 18.
  3. ^ a b c Phillipps, A. & A. Lamb 1996. Pitcher-Plants of Borneo. Natural History Publications (Borneo), Kota Kinabalu.
  4. ^ Grimm, H.N. 1683. Planta mirabilis destillatoria. In: Miscellanea curiosa sive Ephemeridum. Med. Phys. Germ. Acad. Nat. Cur. Decuriae 2, ann. prim. p. 363, f. 27.
  5. ^ Ray, J. 1686. Bandura cingalensium etc. Historia Plantarum 1: 721–722.
  6. ^ Clarke, C.M., R. Cantley, J. Nerz, H. Rischer & A. Witsuba (2000). Nepenthes distillatoria. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 06 May 2006. Listed as Vulnerable (VU B1+2d v2.3).
  • Amaratunga, K.L.D. 1980. Nepenthaceae. In: M.D. Dassanayake & F.R. Fosberg (eds.) A Revised Handbook to the Flora of Ceylon, Volume 6. Taylor & Francis, London. pp. 241–244.
  • Athauda, S.B.P., H. Inoue, A. Iwamatsu & K. Takahashi 1998. Acid Proteinase from Nepenthes distillatoria (Badura). In: M.N.G. James (ed.) Aspartic Proteinases: Retroviral and Cellular Enzymes. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, Volume 436. Plenum Press, New York. pp. 453–458.
  • Athauda, S.B.P., K. Matsumoto, S. Rajapakshe, M. Kuribayashi, M. Kojima, N. Kubomura-Yoshida, A. Iwamatsu, C. Shibata, H. Inoue & K. Takahashi 2004. Enzymatic and structural characterization of nepenthesin, a unique member of a novel subfamily of aspartic proteinases.PDF (1.32 MiB) (manuscript BJ20031575) Biochemical Journal 381(1): 295–306.
  • Oudemans, A.C. 1915. Die lebenden Bwohner der Kannen der insektenfressenden Pflanze Nepenthes distillatoria auf Ceylon (K Guenther). Zeitschrift für wissenschaft Insektenbiologie 11: 242–243.


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