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This family of pitcherplants is found from Madagascar and India through south-east Asia. One species, Nepenthes mirabilis, occurs in sandy, often seasonally wet, nutrient-poor soils in open vegetation on Cape York Peninsula.

Characteristic features of the family Nepenthaceae in Australia include:

  • climber with large, ovate or elliptic, alternate, parallel-veined leaves some of which bear striking, flask shaped, pitcher-traps with lids
  • flowers small, unisexual, borne on separate male and female plants in more or less unbranched racemes
  • male flowers with 3-4 greenish or purplish perianth parts and a column of fused stamens; female plants similar but with a superior ovary
  • fruit a capsule with numerous tiny seeds


Evergreen shrubs, or woody or herbaceous vines climbing by axillary tendrils. Perennating by rhizomes. Plants carnivorous by using pitcher-traps formed from modified leaves.. Extra-floral nectaries on the foliage. Stem internodes terete, oval or slightly flattened. Internal secretions not obvious. Plants glabrous, or with simple or stellate, non-glandular, unicellular hairs. Leaves alternate and spiral, or if herbs then the leaves cauline, all or mostly basal, or both basal and cauline; some leaves modified to form petiolate pitchers; non-pitcher leaf petiolate, subsessile or sessile. Stipules absent. Lamina simple, symmetric, lanceolate, ovate or oblong; base attenuate; margins entire or dentate, ±flat; venation pinnate, or parallel, with the midrib conspicuous, and the tertiary venation reticulate; surfaces not punctate; herbaceous. Male and female flowers occurring on separate plants. Inflorescences terminal, consisting of racemes. Bracts and bracteoles absent. Pollination by insects. Flowers malodorous, stalked. Floral disc absent; nectaries present on the perianth. Perianth regular, of 1 whorl only, with (3–) 4, free or fused, sepaloid or ±petaloid segments, imbricate in bud, red, purple, green, grey, brown or black, without contrasting markings, herbaceous. Fertile stamens 4–25, not clearly correlated with and free of the perianth segments, free of the ovary and style, fused by their filaments into an open or closed tube, all ±equal. Anthers basifixed, not versatile, opening outwards by longitudinal slits, 2-celled. Ovary superior and sessile. Carpels 4, fused; ovary with (3–) 4 locules. Style terminal, single and unbranched, with the stigma capitate or peltate. Ovules 9–numerous per locule, stalked; placentation axile. Fruit a dry dehiscent loculicidal capsule; the perianth on the maturing fruit dry and persistent. Disseminule macro-surface winged; micro-surface ±smooth, orange or brown, glossy. Seeds 20–numerous per fruit. Aril absent. Cotyledons 2. Embryo straight.
(Note: this description has been generated from the coded data compiled for the key. Any errors in the key data will be reflected in the descriptions.)

A treatment of the family Nepenthaceae has been published in:
Flora of Australia 8: 78.

Australian genera of Nepenthaceae (as recognised for the Flora of Australia)


Nepenthes mirabilis (flowers)
Photo: M.Fagg © ANBG 

Nepenthes mirabilis (flowers)
Photo: M.Fagg © ANBG 

Nepenthes mirabilis (habit)
Photo: G.Sankowski © Zodiac Publications 

Nepenthes mirabilis (inflorescence in bud)
Photo: M.Fagg © ANBG