Common names- Indian pitcher plant, monkey cup (English); India: ‘tiew rakot’ (Khasi); ‘kset phare’ (Jaintia); ‘meman koksi’ (Garo)

Scientific name-  Nepenthes khasiana Hook.f.

Species Characteristics

The Indian pitcher plant is a climbing dioecious plant that grows up to 12 m long with branching stems.

The stem, midrib and tendril may vary in colour from green, yellow, orange, or red. Hairs on the seedling pitchers are long and uniserate, while hairs on the inflorescence usually have basal branches and are up to 0.3 mm long.

The lid is the same colour as the exterior of the pitcher, but its underside is often red, especially on upper pitchers. Lower pitchers are up to 12 cm in length and 4.5 cm in diameter, mostly cylindrical.

The inflorescence is a raceme consisting of 2-flowered cymes up to 70 cm long. Regular, unisexual flowers are held on a pedicel. The male inflorescence is twice as long and more dense compared to the female inflorescence. Flowers are greenish-red or greenish-brown.

Fruits are small capsules, 20-25 mm long containing several 2-winged spindle-shaped seeds approximately 5 mm long. Seeds are dispersed by wind when the capsule dries and the carpel splits into 4 parts.

Like other carnivorous plants, N. khasiana gets its mineral nutrition from insects that fall into the pitcher-like trap lined with hairs and are broken down by enzymes in the plant.  This allows the pitcher plant to live in areas with nutrient-poor soils. 

 Habitat & Range

Nepenthes khasiana is the only pitcher plant native to India. It is endemic to the North-Eastern state of Meghalaya where it occurs in the East Khasi Hills, the Jarain area of the Jaintia Hills, the Baghmara area of the Garo Hills, and West Khasi Hills.  The Indian pitcher plant is mostly found in jungle areas where the tendrils can climb other plant material and have access to a water source. 

Fascinating Facts

In traditional medicine, the crushed pitcher is ground in a paste with water and used to treat Cholera.  Garo traditional medical practitioners crush the pitcher into a powder to apply on affected areas of leprosy.  The fresh liquid from the unopened pitcher is used for ear infections, eye infections, night blindness, urogenital infections, asthma, diabetes, kidney problems, and skin diseases.  Locals are known to drink the liquid from the unopened pitchers.  This species also has an ornamental value.


Anne's education is in Ethnobotany with research interests in subsistence agriculture, food systems, and sustainability.  Her most recent studies took her to North-East India where she worked with small-scale rice farmers and conservers of traditional foods