Send to

Choose Destination
Plant Biol (Stuttg). 2006 Nov;8(6):841-8.

Physicochemical properties of functional surfaces in pitchers of the carnivorous plant Nepenthes alata Blanco (Nepenthaceae).

Author information

Evolutionary Biomaterials Group, Department Arzt, Max Planck Institute for Metals Research, Heisenbergstrasse 3, 70569 Stuttgart, Germany.


Pitchers of the carnivorous plant Nepenthes alata are highly specialized organs adapted to attract, capture, and digest animals, mostly insects. They consist of several well distinguishable zones, differing in macro-morphology, surface microstructure, and functions. Since physicochemical properties of these surfaces may influence insect adhesion, we measured contact angles of non-polar (diiodomethane) and polar liquids (water and ethylene glycol) and estimated the free surface energy of 1) the lid, 2) the peristome, 3) the waxy surface of the slippery zone, and 4) the glandular surface of the digestive zone in N. alata pitchers. As a control, the external surface of the pitcher, as well as abaxial and adaxial surfaces of the leaf blade, was measured. Both leaf surfaces, both lid surfaces, and the external pitcher surface showed similar contact angles and had rather high values of surface free energy with relatively high dispersion component. These surfaces are considered to support strong adhesion forces based on the capillary interaction, and by this, to promote successful attachment of insects. The waxy surface is almost unwettable, has extremely low surface energy, and therefore, must essentially decrease insect adhesion. Both the peristome and glandular surfaces are wetted readily with both non-polar and polar liquids and have very high surface energy with a predominating polar component. These properties result in the preclusion of insect adhesion due to the hydrophilic lubricating film covering the surfaces. The obtained results support field observations and laboratory experiments of previous authors that demonstrated the possible role of different pitcher surfaces in insect trapping and retention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart, New York
Loading ...
Support Center