Feb 15, 2013

Winter break: What was that about monkey cups?

Carnivorous plants!

Monkey cup gardens
Monkey cupsMonkey cupsMonkey cupsKabir, our guideKabir wanted us to hold this bug

I mentioned in my last post that our excursion to Penang Hill included a search for something called “monkey cup.” As is our wont, we had set off down the path to Monkey Cup Garden without knowing quite what we would find. The exciting story:

There aren’t any monkeys, a returning tourist told us in response to a joke we had made, just carnivorous plants. He tipped us off that the entry fee included a golf cart ride back to the main commercial area, and then went on his way on foot. We continued the final meters to our destination.

In the garden, we were met by our own private tour guide, Kabir. He pointed out the various species of monkey cup — aka pitcher plants, aka nepenthes — and how they worked and where each were from; most are native to southeast Asia, but there were a few from South America. The plants are pretty, but freaky. They attract bugs to a pool of water in their bulbous base where the prey gets knocked out and drowned; the lid comes down and the plant starts eating. Signs everywhere warn guests not to stick their fingers into the pitchers; I think that’s more to protect the plants than the humans, but it’s still creepy to think of the small flower slowly digesting your knocked-out body.

Kabir was very friendly. He told us proudly about his daughter — she does very well in school — and laughed when we said that we don’t have kids — “But you’re so old!” — so that we can come to Malaysia. We also talked a bit of Chinese real estate.

At the end of the tour, he brought us to the interactive space! He fed a bug to a Venus fly trap — it takes 3 days to digest! — and offered to let us hold a millipede or a scorpion. We declined to hold them on the grounds that they were mammoth and frightening. Kabir worked hard to convince us, even wearing the scorpion as a hat, but, just say no to creepy crawlies remains a motto for both of us.

We got out unscathed, and luxuriated in the golf cart ride back to civilization.

This moss eats stuff