Alata Nepenthes is a carnivorous plant. It grows easily in many areas, especially if it is in a damp soil with lots of nutrients. The genus Alata, from which the plant is taken, contains thirty species. One species is better known as the ‘wolves’ eye’ plant, because of its fleshy purple flowers that can confuse other plants. The name carnivorous plant care comes from the fact that it eats its own kind.
Alata Nepenthes ‘bane’ has purple flowers and is a member of the family of the Scarabaeaceae, which includes cactus plants. Its scientific name, according to W.H. Keelan is Zycladria Cordyline-Erythronitra, although it is also called simply Cordyline. It was mentioned by H. Kock in his book, Fungi of the New World, as having similar features with Mimulus (Fungus). It was described as having overlapping leaf surfaces with white edges, having a fissured middle with a number of white flower buds and having a fissured base. Because of these unique characteristics it has been called the ‘cacti cactus’.
The plant grows best in alkaline conditions, but it does tolerate some acidity, including mildew. It prefers a well drained soil with lots of light. It needs to be watered about once a week during hot dry weather, while the leaves should remain green during cooler periods. The leaves will yellow to brown when they become over exposed to the air.
Alata Nepenthes is part of a large family of carnivorous plants like the wolfgrass, Cattail and the common sweetpotato. It belongs to the Scarabaeaceae, which includes cacti, lizards and snakes. Like other members of its family the plant is carnivorous, with most of its foliage being carnivore plucked as food for birds. This may account for the name, which fits in with the ‘meat-eating’ habits of this member of the Neotropical flora.
In their natural environment Alata Nepenthes and other carnivores to enjoy a diet consisting of small animals, lizards, snails, frogs and insects. In captivity they are able to eat mainly leafy vegetables, notably spinach, chlorella, beans, lettuce and artichokes. As far as eating is concerned, Alata Nepenthes’ feeding habit lends itself to a variety of methods. Long spoonfuls of leaves are propped up on a platform at the bottom of the tank, the leaf fork withdrawn and used to pick up the leaves. The whole plant can then be bitten off with the fork, and any excess bits swallowed whole.
The young leaves can also be picked up with the mouthful, although this method is not recommended for new Alata Nepenthes, as it leaves a thin coating of residue at the base of the plant. A method employed more often than not by breeders, and practiced by many long-time hobbyists, is to gently pull the leaves from the stems, with the saliva producing glands at the base of the stem attracting all the pollinating insects. Alota Nepenthes, like most members of the Neotropical flora, enjoys a wide range of prey, especially those feeding on the plant’s leaves, but it will readily accept other foods.
Like all members of the Neotropical flora, Alata Nepenthes requires a degree of care if it is to thrive, with its harsh environments placing considerable stress on the plant’s immune system. An easy way to improve plant health is to reduce or eliminate any insects which may have taken up residence in the plants feeding on the leaves. Aphids and lacewings are usually an issue, due to their ability to feed on the plant’s leaves. If you find yourself with an overly active male, one which has produced numerous offspring, it is advisable to separate him from the female so that she can deal with them properly. In fact, most professional growers advise against trying to breed these pests because of their destructive tendencies.
One final suggestion for Alata Nepenthes, is that although it is an annual, you should prune it every two or three years in order to ensure a healthy growth. Pruning also helps keep the plant from becoming too woody. Although it is a fast growing perennial, it can be expected to produce small offspring during its lifetime, so you should consider planting a new plant each year if you wish. It is a member of the spinach family and therefore can be used as a replacement for lettuce, in salad dressings and to replace artichokes in soups and stews.