The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 12

Q: Heliamphora from the western ranges

Western species
H. arenicola W of Ilu-Tramen Massif
H. ceracea S (Brazilian) flanks of Pico da
H. hispida S & C Neblina (Pico Phelps,
Pico da Neblina)
H. macdonaldae1 Southern Cerro Duida (and
Cerro Huachamacari, Cerro
H. neblinae2 NW & S Neblina, Cerro
Aracamuni, Cerro Avispa
H. parva3 NW & S Neblina
H. tatei4,5 Cerro Huachamacari,
Cerro Marahuaca,
Cerro Duida
1Some authors prefer H. tatei var. macdonaldae.
2What some authors mean by H. tatei var. neblinae.
3What some authors mean by H. neblinae var. parva or H. tatei var. neblinae f. parva.
4What some authors mean by H. tatei var. tatei.
5Probably includes H. tyleri Gleason.

A: The western portion of the range occurs almost entirely (but not quite completely) in Venezuela. I have not been to this part of the world, but all reports suggest that the area is difficult to travel through and survey.

It was long thought that Heliamphora in this western set of peaks were typically tall-pitchered, as compared to the species far to the east. This rule has been found to be invalid.

Unfortunately, the most complete work on the genus (McPherson et al. 2011) has no botanical keys in it, so unless you know exactly where your plant is from, you must work through the entire set of species, and picture-match your plant with the photos--since the book tends to show noteworthy plants, even this is impractical.

Heliamphora arenicola
Distinguished from H. elongata by the smaller, helmet-shaped nectar spoon, and pitcher coloration. Unlike H. nutans, it does not have a glabrous inflorescence.

Heliamphora ceracea
Unlike other species from its range, this does not have hairs on the internal pitcher surface. The nectar spoon is also narrow, flat, and pointed--again unlike other nearby species.

Heliamphora hispida
A very shapely species with pitchers that are either green and red, or completely red. Pitchers are only 15-25 cm tall (6-10 inches), and represent an example of a stout species in the western range. This plant may be producing hybrid swarms with H. tatei that are confounding taxonomists. This is a difficult problem for those who wish to be able to definitively identify each and every plant!

Heliamphora macdonaldae
The upper inside of the pitcher of this species glabrous and is beautifully colored on the interior pitcher surface.

Heliamphora neblinae
This is a source of great controversy: is it a separate species or just a subspecies of H. tatei? Many H. neblinae in cultivation are actually H. tatei. Taxa such as H. neblinae var. viridis Maguire and H. neblinae var. parva Maguire are perhaps not merited, and may have resulted in part from the confusion between H. neblinae and H. tatei. Heliamphora neblinae occurs in large highland meadows with Brocchinia reducta, and has a variable nectar spoon structure.

Heliamphora parva
an atypically small species, usually with a creeping stem--features the authors claim are reasonably distinctive.

Heliamphora tatei
A giant that can make scrambling stems 1.5 meters tall (5 feet)! The green or greenish-red pitchers pitchers are also large---they are up to 50 cm tall (20 inches) tall with slightly swollen bellies and pitcher tubes that gently expand upwards. The nectar spoon is flat or conical, and narrow at the base. The populations in Cerro Aracamuni by Cerro Avispa are somewhat different in character. This is the second species of Heliamphora ever to be discovered, in 1928.

Hybrids have been found from the area involving H. arenicola, H. ceracea, H. hispida, H. neblinae, and H. parva.

Page citations: Berry, P., et al. 2005; Givnish, T.J. et al. 2000; McPherson, S. 2006; McPherson, S. et al. 2011; Nerz, J. and Wistuba, A. 2000; Rice, B. 2006a; Schlauer, J. 2002.

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Revised: 2018
©Barry Rice, 2018