Although rich in biodiversity, tropical rainforest soils are nutrient poor. Nutrient cycling moves so quickly in these tropical climates that nutrients are quickly converted into new growth as soon as plants decay.
Some plants in the tropics, like these pitcher plants in the genus Nepenthes get needed nitrogen and other nutrients by digesting and absorbing small prey. Their elaborate pitchers are each formed by a modified leaf tip.
The pitcher plant uses nectar and attractive leaf patterns to lure prey. Once inside the pitcher, the prey slides down a slippery, waxy surface and hairs facing downward prevent escape. Eventually the prey falls into the liquid at the bottom of the trap.
Some pitcher plants have digestive enzymes to break down their prey. Others rely on communities of microorganisms inside the pitcher. Either way, trapping prey helps the pitcher plant survive very challenging conditions!