Nepenthes edwardsiana is apex Nepenthes and known as the “splendid pitcher plant” for good reason. It combines the most beastly characteristics of a flanged, spikey peristome (second only to Nepenthes hamata when it comes to “viscous factor”) with the handsome refinement of a cylindrical pitcher shape, fine ribbing, and beautiful red-orange coloration. It’s like a lion in a tuxedo – it will bite your face off, but will do it with style.
Parking the awe-inspired acclimation for a moment, Nepenthes edwardsiana is also a fascinating species with a bit of an early identity crisis. It was discovered by Spenser St. John and Sir Hugh Low in 1858 high atop Mt. Kinabalu. One year later, Sir Joseph Hooker formally described the plant, solidifying it as a unique species. Even so, some botanists thought N. edwardsiana was actually N. villosa (more specifically, a subspecies N. edwardsiana subsp. macrophylla). This debate raged on until 1908 when John Muirhead Macfarlane revised the description and botanical illustrations of N. ewardsiana in his monograph, reinstating its position as a distinct species. Hermann Harms doubled down on this in 1936 and this time it stuck.
The name edwardsiana honors Georgoe Edwards, Governor of the Colony of Labuan from 1856 to 1861. It was also referred to as Nepenthes edgworthii for a hot minute, but this did not stick.
Unique biology of Nepenthes edwardsiana
As alluded to above, Nepenthes edwardsiana pitchers are something to behold. Lower pitchers are about 10 inches (25 cm) tall, and generally smaller than upper pitchers. The bottom-most pitcher section is ovate, narrowing out to a distinct hip and more cylindrical shape. Lower pitchers have wings.
Unlike many Nepenthes with smaller upper pitchers, N. edwardsiana goes big. Upper pitchers can reach 20 inches (50 cm) and hold more than 13.5 ounces (400 ml) of digestive fluids. Wings subside and give way to subtle ribbing, but the peristome retains blade-like flanges.
Other notable characteristics
Nepenthes edwardsiana grows in dense forest at 5000-8800 feet (1500-2700 m) above sea level as an epiphyte, among trees, but also feels at home on terra, among mossy rocks. Conditions are almost always misty and engulfed in clouds. Stems grow up to 50 feet (15 m) long, climbing through vegetation.
The conservation status of this tropical pitcher plant is listed as a Vulnerable species, so make sure any specimens for sale come from reputable nurseries.