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Sockhom

N. smilesii in Kirirom NP, Cambodia

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Hello,

I've been told that there is a population of Nepenthes smilesii in Kirirom National Park in Cambodia, province of Kampong Speu.

One of my friend has been there before and I knew I wasn't going to see something "new".

However, as fas as I know, there had been no official record of N. smilesii in Kirirom NP and, thus, I wanted to collect some samples for Phnom Penh university (RUPP). I also wanted to see the plants myself.

Kirirom is not too difficult to reach from Phnom Penh. It's a well known place and at week ends, Khmers can be found looking for some walks along the trails or baths in the waterfalls. Black bears can also be seen from time to time but they are getting much rarer now because of poaching. The climate is cool there as it is more than 700 meters above sea level.

Kirirom is more or less a vast plateau and the vegetation is quite variable. Evergreen forest, pines forest and savannahs can be find there.

Away from the touristic spots , there are many trails which are seldom visited.

That's where I found N. smilesii. That plant is well known from local people and they call it "Bampong kralaom".

I apologize for the bad quality of the pictures. My trip in Kirirom has been a hell as it rained (downpours!) all day long - it never stopped. I was completely soaked and, normally, I should have never used my (wife's) camera in such conditions. You will see some drops in the lens from time to time. I'm sorry about that.

The landscape where N. smilesii grows is very atypical for Cambodia. It is different from the idea one can have of a tropical country. The Nepenthes are quite hidden by tall grasses and small bushes.

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N. smilesii, just like in Kampot (my other post) grows in very open habitats. The pines barely provide any shade. They thrives in full sand among herbs. The easiest way to spot them is by searching for their very tall flower scapes (up to 100 cm or more):

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The peristome of N. smilesii is often raised at the front but this is not a completely constant feature and

I am reluctant to use it as one of the most important keys to identify the species. That feature can also be observed in N. bokorensis, but, then again, it is not constant.

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Henri Lecomte, the french botanist who described N. thorelii and N. kampotiana refered to N. smilesii as a "dwarf" plant because it often stays at the rosette stage. Nevertheless, some smilesii pitchers can reach quite a big size:

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I did not found many upper picthers that day but most of them were almost white and they could seriously compete with N. alba (the former N. gracillima):

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From time to time, one can find strains with crimson pitchers. I bet this is such plants which had been collected and introduced in horticultural circles as "Nepenthes thorelii":

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Local khmers who live in the park told me that it can be very cold at night and they have sometimes found ice (!) in the pitchers. This reminded me what's been said of the population of N. smilesii growing in Phu Kradung (Mount Kradung) in Thailand which is a 1500 m plateau.

I really hope that now you Nepenthes enthusiasts will be more familiar with that Indochinese species.

Truly,

François.

Edited by Sockhom

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Fascinating stuff François, I had heard that Phu-Kradung gets down to freezing and now you've confirmed it for these plants in Cambodia also!

François, do you know if these particular plants have a winter/dry season dormancy or is it wet all year?

Edited by manders

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Fascinating stuff François, I had heard that Phu-Kradung gets down to freezing and now you've confirmed it for these plants in Cambodia also!

François, do you know if these particular plants have a winter/dry season dormancy or is it wet all year?

Hi Mark,

Yes, I noted the similarity with Phu Kradung too. I still have to get more infos about this climate. I'm surprised about that ice at only 700 masl.

Those smilesii are exposed to a very severe dry season. It doesn't look so because the pictures were taken under downpours.

If you look closely, you will see charcoal. That place is regularly burned. Jebb and Cheek designate N. smilesii as a "pyrophytic" species in a forthcoming paper.

Cheers,

François.

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Francois,

Very nice pictures. I have seen Nepenthes smilesii on Phu Kradung in Thailand. It was a very similair habitad with mainly pine trees. A kind of savannah vegetation. It was in the dry season when there are sometimes also fires.

I also saw them there under Rhododendrons in sphagnum on sandy soil. There was even a kind of Gentiana growing there! Not the kind of plants you expect to see growing with Nepenthes! Also a Drosera was found there.

Nature is full surprises!

Alexander

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Fascinating stuff François, I had heard that Phu-Kradung gets down to freezing and now you've confirmed it for these plants in Cambodia also!

Ah; maybe Manders, maybe not. Unfortunately urban legends aren't confined to the cities...

I don't think I'll be "volunteering" any of my plants to a cold weather test ;)

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Good point Dave.

I confess I did'nt check the temperatures myself but just relied on word of mouth.

Stewart McPherson personally recorded 6°C on Phu Kradung though.

Cheers,

François.

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I can see how pure water, right at the surface of the liquid in the pitcher might be able freeze without any of the plant tissue or even less pure water deeper in the pitcher would not thanks to chemicals which lower the freezing point. But still, I think this would be pushing it and maybe too far. Local people may have seen this happen, but maybe the rosettes died later anyway and the plants regrew from roots...

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Loei is apparently the coldest province of Thailand and the only one that regularly goes below freezing in winter. In terms of actual numbers - Loei airport typically records minimums of 6C - 7C degrees in winter at an altitude of 253m. Phu-kradung at ~1350m is clearly going to be several degrees colder. The minimum recorded temperature for Loei, (almost certainly at Phu-kradueng), is -1.3C.

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Sometimes you get coldsnaps from China getting as far south as Thailand. I know a place at tthe foot of Doi Chiang Dao where they had a couple of years ago ripe on the ground below the coconut palms. All the bananas where brown. When I had been there the nights where cold, about 12 degrees. Bloody freezing for the tropics!!!

When I visited Phu Kradung on 7 and 8 Februari it was very hot when climbing the mountain and on top it was still a pleasant 25 to 28 degrees Celcius. And also not cold during the night. I guess they get a touch of groundfrost there during coldsnaps from China. But those coldsnaps are breef. And probably mostly in low parts of the terrain. Its a kind of light rolling landscape on top of that tablemountain. And the plants are in a dormant stage anyway.

When the rains come N. smilesii and other stuff resprouts quickly.

But there where also Hedychium villosum tenuiflorum in flower. So I guess frost is not occuring at every place there.

The higest mountain in Thailand is Doi Ithanon, much higher then Phu Kradung. And Doi Chiang Dao is with 2400 meter also a lot colder. I know that Trachycarpus oreophilus from that mountain can survive some frost in parts of the UK for example. No Nepenthes though on those 2 mountains.

And Honkong had in the winter of 2007 one day that it was the whole day not warmer then 8 degrees!

I guess the coldes record in Bangkok has ben a maximum of 13 Celcius. Sometimes cold air from Siberia get that far south!

Alexander

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I think every hundred metres you ascend, the temperature decreases by 0.6ºc or something like that, I cannot remember the exact statistic though..

Beautiful photos as always François :thank_you2:

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