In 2018 I embarked on an expedition to find Nepenthes in the rainforests of Sumatra. One of the highlights was locating Nepenthes ovata growing wild in the cloud forests near Lake Toba, North Sumatra.
Nepenthes ovata is a stunning pitcher plant named for its ovoid lower pitchers. These pitchers are colourful, large and are adorned with a dramatic flared peristome. Many different colour forms exist at the same location, covering a full spectrum between lime green and blood red.
The species occurs at elevations greater than ~1,500 m asl when the dense rainforest thins out into cloud forest. The tree growth is stunted by cold temperatures and high winds, and perennially high humidity promotes a thick layer of moss that covers every surface.
Nepenthes ovata grows in this airy mixture of moss and decomposing plant matter, both terrestrially and as an epiphyte. When I reached the ridge of the mountain, the growth was even more stunted. Here, exposed through the low canopy, the pitcher plants threw up large vines and upper pitchers.
The upper pitchers are elegant, with a gracefully curving shape and light green colouration. The drama of the peristome is preserved through stripes of red. The upper pitchers have a hook-like appendage near the base of the peristome, which is one of the features that distinguishes it from its closest relatives.