Nepenthes rajah

19th century English botanical explorer Joseph Dalton Hooker described Nepenthes rajah as "one of the most striking vegetable productions hither-to discovered." It is the largest species of Nepenthes in the world, with huge red pitchers holding up to 6 liters of fluid, and is one of only two species of Nepenthes known to regularly capture small mammals (the other being N. rafflesiana).

This beautifully detailed watercolor was painted by English botanical artist Matilda Smith and published in Curtis's Botanical Magazine, where she contributed her artwork for over forty years.


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About Nepenthes rajah

Nepenthes rajah, or Rajah pitcher plant, is a species of large pitcher plant native to the Mount Kinabalu region of Borneo. It is the largest and one of the most beautiful species of pitcher plant, and it is sometimes referred to as the "King of the Pitcher Plants."

N. rajah has a large pitcher-shaped leaf, measuring up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length. The upper part of the leaf forms a hood-like structure that arches over the pitcher's "opening." The pitcher itself is usually a vibrant green in color and has a smooth, glossy surface. When wet, the pitchers may sometimes display beautiful red and purple markings, adding to the plant's beauty.

The pitchers of N. rajah are specially adapted to capture and digest prey, becoming a deadly trap to unsuspecting insects. The pitcher is filled with digestive enzymes and a fluid known as "pitcher fluid." When insects land on the slippery rim of the pitcher or get too close, they slip and fall into the fluid. The enzymes then break down and digest the prey, allowing the plant to absorb the nutrients released.

Most prey consists of small insects such as mosquitoes, fruit flies, and ants, although larger insects and small animals, including mice and rats, have been found inside the pitchers. The prey collected provides the plant with additional nitrogen and other essential nutrients. In addition to its prey, N. rajah is home to several species of insects and spiders that cannot live in any other environment (creatures known as "nepenthebionts").

N. rajah flowers from late April to late May. The species is unusual in that its flowers are green, rather than brightly colored like other species of pitcher plants. The flower is tube-shaped with a single-lobed lip, and the flowers of both sexes are almost identical.

The plant has a limited distribution, growing only in the mountain ridges of Mount Kinabalu and in areas of Sabah in Borneo. It is threatened by deforestation and soil erosion, and is listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Although N. rajah faces severe environmental pressures it is still relatively common in its original habitat. With proper protection and conservation, this species can be preserved for future generations to enjoy its remarkable beauty.