Curtis's Botanical Magazine/Volume 73/4285

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Curtis's Botanical Magazine, Volume 73
Tab. 4285. Nepenthes Rafflesiana. Sir Stamford Raffles' Pitcher-Plant.


Curtis's Botanical Magazine, Plate 4285 (Volume 73, 1847).jpg

Tab. 4285.

NEPENTHES Rafflesiana.

Sir Stamford Raffles' Pitcher-Plant.


Nat. Ord. Nepenthaceæ.–Diœcia Monadelphia.

Gen. Char. Flores dioici. Masc. Perigonium calycinum, profunde quadrifidum. Stamina in columnam centralem connata; anthercæ 16, in capitulum subsphæricum congestm, biloculares, longitudinaliter dehiscentes.Fœm. Perigonium maris. Ovarium liberum, subtetragonum, quadriloculare. Ovula plurima, septorum parietibus adscendentim affixa, anatropa. Stigma sessile, discoideum, obsolete quadrilobum. Capsula quadrilocularis, loculicido-quadrivalvis, valvis medio septiferis. Semina plurima, setaceo-fusiformia, adscendentia, imbricata: testa membranacea, utrinque relaxata; nucleo centrali inverso, subgloboso. Embryo in axi albuminis carnosi cylindricus, orthotropus; radicula brevi, infera.–Suffrutices in Asia tropica et in Madagascaria indigeni; petiolis alternis, basi brevissime vaginantibus, foliaceo-dilatatis, apice cirrhosis, cirrho ascidiophoro, lamina articulata ascidium claudente; floribus racemosis vel paniculatis. Endl.


Nepenthes Rafflesiana; foliis petiolatis inferiorum ascidiis ventricoso-campanulatis antice late membranaceo-alatis alis longe ciliatis superiorum infundibuliformibus nudis, omnium ore pulcherrime pectinato-striato oblique postice assurgente.

Nepenthes Rafflesiana. Jack, in Hooker, Comp. to Bot. Mag. p. 270. Kortials, Bot. Ind. Batav. p. 35.


To Dr. Jack is due the discovery of this remarkable species of Nepenthes, in the island of Singapore. It was our privilege, in the first volume of the Companion to the Botanical Magazine', to publish the letters of that distinguished botanist so early lost to science. He relates the circumstance of finding this pitcher plant in one of his many valued communications, addressed to his family at Aberdeen. Writing from Singapore, June 20th, 1819, Dr. Jack says, "My last letter from hence was sent by way of Penang; this goes home via Bengal. It is impossible to conceive anything more beautiful than the approach to Singapore, through the Archipelago of islands that lie at the extremity of the Straits of Malacca. Seas of glass wind among innumerable islets, clothed in all the luxuriance of tropical vegetation, and basking in the full brilliancy of a tropical sky. The island of St. John's, which forms the western point of the bay of Singapore, would, if fortified, command with cannon the straits, through which every vessel passes to China and all the eastern settlements. A more convenient site and more formidable position could not possibly be selected; and it is really astonishing that it should have remained so long unnoticed. It was the capital of the Malays in the twelfth century; but they were obliged to abandon it, during the unfortunate wars with the Javan Empire of Majapulait, and retire to Malacca, and when the latter was taken by the Portuguese, they settled at Johore; and Singapore has, till now, been almost forgotten. I have no doubt it will soon rise to more than its ancient consequence. I have just arrived in time to explore the woods, before they yield to the axe, and have made many interesting discoveries, particularly of two new and splendid species of Pitcher-Plant (Nepenthes Rafflesiana and N. ampullaria), far surpassing any yet known in Europe. I have completed two perfect drawings of them, with ample descriptions. Sir S. Raffles is anxious that we should give publicity to our researches, in one way or other, and has planned bringing out something at Bencoolen. He proposes sending home these Pitcher-plants, that such splendid things may appear under all the advantages of elegant execution, by way of attracting attention to the subject of Sumatran botany." Many of 1)r, Jack's plants did appear in the Malayan Miscellany, published at Bencoolen; but no plants of the Nepenthes Rafflesiana ever reached Europe alive; till the Royal Gardens was supplied with a case of them, through the kindness of Capt. Bethune, R.N., who, on his return from his scientific mission to Borneo, had a Wardian case filled with them ; and so well were the plants established in the case, and so great was the care taken of them overland from India, that they were as healthy on their arrival at Kew in 1845 as the day they were transplanted from their native glen in Singapore. It was the very year in which Dr. Jack writes, that, as is well known, at the suggestion of his friend and patron, Sir Stamford Raffles, the island of Singapore was purchased by the India Company of the Sultan of Johore. Mr. Crawford was its first Governor and historian: since that period, it has become a settlement of vast importance to our country, and being much frequented by our ships, both mercantile and of the navy, it is to be hoped its vegetable productions will soon be familiar to us. Dr. Jack, with the modesty which was a striking feature in his character, gives the credit of the discovery of this plant in the forests of Singapore, to Sir Stamford Raffles; probably in order that the name might be considered more appropriate. Singapore, however, does not appear to be the only station for this plant; Korthals, if we read his high Dutch correctly, gives Bintang, off the coast of Sumatra, as another habitat. Our plants, on their arrival, were soon removed into pots according to their sizes, and placed in a pan frequently filled with water, having moist moss covering the earth: with this treatment, a fine spike of male flowers was thrown up in the autumn of the same year. The spike is large and handsome, from the rich colour of the copious perianths and the numerous yellow heads. The pitchers, or ascidia, are not only remarkable in their shape, and from their different form in different parts of the plants, but for the richness of the colour and spots, and the elongated mouth with the curiously striated margin: the striae terminate internally in teeth, and give a beautifully pectinated appearance to the inner edge.

We possess fine dried specimens from the East India Company, distributed by Dr. Wallich (and our capsule is drawn from one of these); and we have other specimens for which we are indebted to Mr. Veitch, also received from Singapore, and gathered by Mr. Lobb. Dr. Jack well observes "this is the largest and most magnificent species of the genus, being adorned with two kinds of urns, both elegant in their forms, and brilliant in their colouring." We cannot, indeed, we think, do better than copy the description drawn up from native living specimens, by Dr. Jack himself; for we can offer nothing more accurate.

Descr. The root is fibrous. Stem ascending at the base, becoming erect and supporting itself on the neighbouring trees: the young parts covered with a deciduous tomentum or down. Leaves alternate, petiolate, the lower ones crowded and lanceolate, the upper more remote and oblong: the adult foliage is smooth; all the leaves are entire, having inconspicuous lateral nerves, and the mid-rib elongated into an urn-bearing cirrhus or tendril. The cirrhi of the lower leaves are not twisted, but hang straight from the apex; they terminate in larger ventricose and highly-coloured ascidia or urns, fringed along the interior angles with two membranaceous fimbriate wings, somewhat contracted at the mouth, which opens obliquely, rising much higher and slightly recurved behind, where the operculum, or lid, is inserted. The tendrils of the upper leaves are twisted into one or two spires at the middle, and terminate in long ascending funnel-shaped urns, flattened anteriorly, but not winged, and gracefully turned at the mouth like an antique vase or urn. Both have the inverted margin beautifully and delicately striated and variegated with parallel stripes of purple, crimson, and yellow. The opercula, or lids, are incumbent, membranaceous, ovate, marked with two principal longitudinal nerves, and cuspidate behind the hinge. The racemes of flowers are at first terminal; but the stem begins, after a time, to shoot beyond them and they become lateral, and are always opposite to a leaf, which differs from the others in being sessile, and its cirrhus never bearing an urn at its extremity. The pedicels are one-flowered. Male Flowers: Calyx deeply four-parted, tomentose on the outer surface, smooth, red, and punctate on the inner; segments oblong, obtuse, reflexed. Corolla none. The staminous column is central, thick, erect, red. Anthers numerous, yellow, contorted into a round terminal head. Female flowers: Calyx as in the male. Ovary superior, oblong, four-sided, erect. Style none. Stigma sessile, peltate, four-lobed. Capsule oblong, somewhat curved, four-angled, deeply furrowed at the sides, four-celled, four-valved; the valves septiferous in the middle, many-seeded. Seeds oblong, linear, membranaceous, and acute at both ends; arranged longitudinally, and affixed by the base to the partitions.–Wm. Jack.


Fig. 1. Male flower. 2. fruit:–natural size.