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Plant Cell Environ. 2011 Nov;34(11):1865-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3040.2011.02382.x. Epub 2011 Jul 21.

Nutritional benefit from leaf litter utilization in the pitcher plant Nepenthes ampullaria.

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  • 1Department of Plant Physiology, Comenius University in Bratislava, Mlynská dolina B2, SK-842 15, Bratislava, Slovakia.


The pitcher plant Nepenthes ampullaria has an unusual growth pattern, which differs markedly from other species in the carnivorous genus Nepenthes. Its pitchers have a reflexed lid and sit above the soil surface in a tighly packed 'carpet'. They contain a significant amount of plant-derived materials, suggesting that this species is partially herbivorous. We tested the hypothesis that the plant benefits from leaf litter utilization by increased photosynthetic efficiency sensu stricto cost/benefit model. Stable nitrogen isotope abundance indicated that N. ampullaria derived around 41.7 ± 5.5% of lamina and 54.8 ± 7.0% of pitcher nitrogen from leaf litter. The concentrations of nitrogen and assimilation pigments, and the rate of net photosynthesis (A(N)), increased in the lamina as a result of feeding, but did not increase in the trap. However, maximal (F(v) /F(m)) and effective photochemical quantum yield of photosystem II (Φ(PSII)) were unaffected. Our data indicate that N. ampullaria benefits from leaf litter utilization and our study provides the first experimental evidence that the unique nitrogen sequestration strategy of N. ampullaria provides benefits in term of photosynthesis and growth.

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