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NEPENTHES PERVILLEI
AND THE
SEYCHELLES ODYSSEY
By Colin Clayton of Triffid Park

If we could look back through time to its very dawn, when the shape of our planet was still evolving, we would witness the crumbling of the giant super continent of Gondwanaland.  We might see how a line of sparkling islands floated free into the Indian Ocean, finally coming to rest between India, Africa and Madagascar.  Today, we know these gems as the granitic islands of Seychelles, the only mid-oceanic granite islands in the world, which have been isolated for 75 million years.  They lie between 4-10 degrees south of the equator and 1,000 miles off the east African coast.  Together, with others of coral formation, they make up the Seychelles archipelago.  115 magnificent islands of striking beauty, spread like gemstones across more than a million miles of ocean, and harbouring diverse and marvellous life forms that are today a prized natural heritage and the pride of its people.   Forgotten for centuries by all but the most intrepid Arab sailors, pirates, and adventurers, who were the first to wonder, wide-eyed at her natural beauty, followed by the Portuguese, and the Dutch who did not settle there.  Seychelles remained uninhabited until the late eighteenth century when the French, with their innate eye for beauty, finally made the islands their home.  From a diverse and prophetic assortment of "15 whites, 5 Malabar Indians and 8 Africans" the population swelled to 3,500 persons by the time Seychelles was ceded to Britain in 1814, remaining a British colony until Independence in 1976.  The Seychellois people characterize a colourful and harmonious blend of different races.  Representatives from almost every race on earth have at one time or another contributed something of their own customs and harmonious nation, whose lingua franca is Creole, but where English and French are also the official languages.  The result is a common culture enriched by the influences of many continents, and clearly visible throughout the domains of language, architecture, music and cuisine.  Today the Republic of Seychelles has a multi-party political system, with an executive President as head of state and government.
Only a handful of the international carnivorous plant fraternity have ever visited these beautiful islands.  For Seychelles is remote, very expensive, and hosting only one endemic carnivorous plant, Nepenthes pervillei,  which has been poorly researched and documented.  Most of the information about it is buried in obscure, or out of print, scientific publications, unobtainable to all but the most dedicated researcher.  Tantalizing glimpses of variations occasionally appear on the internet, with no references of where the photos were taken.  I have written a book "Seychelles Carnivorous Plants" which I hope will stimulate interest in the carnivorous plants of Seychelles, and enable those interested to know where, when, and what to look for.

COLIN'S EMAIL HOME

Inhabited by rare carnivorous plants, giant primeval mountains made from granite left over when the world was formed.  Remote and mysterious, these mountains and their prehistoric vegetation, are found only the the tiny island of Seychelles in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  Visited by a mere handful of botanists, and even less carnivorous plant enthusiasts, this was the destination of my choice, and Tina's too, for French was their language, and any chance to practice it was not to be passed up lightly.  So after much research as to where to find the plants, and was I fit enough to actually climb the mountains.  Yes, I could find them [I hope].  Yes, I was fit enough [I hope].  The other concern was, could I find my way on and off the mountain.  So a feat in itself.  No internet booking here, but a real travel agent skilled in the ways of Indian Ocean travel, with lots of "my cousin have car yard" and "my brother's wife's uncle have place to sleep".  With these words of warning from Tina's finger nail painting girl [DON'T TRUST THE MAURITIONS], I have never seen Tina so apprehensive about a trip [don't know why], and its off we went.  First stop Mauritius.  In typical French wisdom they build the airport on one side of the island, and hotels on the other side.  This employs lots of people transporting everything from one side of the island to the other, and generally wastes a good day.  Great island, discovered in 1600 owned by everyone in succession, who cut down all the trees, made every living creature on it extinct, including the famous Dodo birds.  There's not one feather, bone, or anything of the 10s of thousands that once roamed here.  Accommodation FANTASTIC, beach resort like you see on Getaway or Lifestyle of the rich and famous.  Full board, all food and drinks included, what a place, Tina was impressed except for the sparrows.  The dining room was full of them, pooped in and on everything.  Ate out of the same buffet as us.  The management just ignored them.  Car was a mini rent a wreck, no tread on tyres, full of dints, but it went [sort of], only 450 thousand K.s on the clock [only thing that worked].  Trundled around looking at stuff.  Other drivers seemed to have death wish, their driving made no sense, pass here, pass there.  Maybe they're the same religion as the suicide bombers, and were just hurrying to get to a better place, maybe Mecca.  The day we went into the hills to look for plants there was a car rally, and every car on the road was a world rally replica driven to its limit, and these were just the spectators.  Looked at lots of stuff, including what started out as a sort of hypnotic attraction.  For every attraction in Mauritius and Seychelles had a pen of giant land tortoises, and every one you came to you could not help looking at them just in case they did something.  They never did.  Read where someone watched a pet one for 20 odd years, never did a thing, came out one morning and it had turned around and they had missed it.
Next stop, Seychelles.  As for airport, re-read Mauritius, but add mountain range and narrow roads.  Hotel a bit of a downer after the last one, but adequate.  POOL good.  We swam even while watching the giant fruit bats feed on nearby trees.  CAR.  Booked a Jeep or similar.  A micro something with wheels no bigger than a small wheel barrow turned up.  At least it had air con, as this place was hot.  Car was actually adequate, as Seychelles is only 18 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, with the smallest capital city in the world.  [Fuel 2 dollars plus per litre].  All of the traffic is funnelled through this capital [VICTORIA] twice a day, creating the world's biggest traffic jam.  Tina and I started to climb the first mountain, met some people on their way down, they told us no plants up there.  Go back, climb next mountain, see plants they said.  Tina definitely decided mountain climbing was not in her genes.  Her ancestors came from the flat part of France, and none had ever climbed mountains ever.  Guarding the car was more her "forte".  [Check out my French] [Did her ancestors have cars for her to inherit this incredible skill from?]  Climbed the next mountain and found some of the Nepenthes pervillei I had come so far to see.  I think I was the first person there ever, as the bush was quite thick [3 metres high] and there were no signs of anyone ever pushing through it.  Extremely difficult photography as plants were growing in vegetation choked valleys, between granite boulders as big as houses.  No paths or tracks, by the time I had left some of the vegetation was quite damaged.  All in all, the site was quite disappointing.  Nothing like the photos I had seen.  Next morning climbed up Mt?? [see my book], a short difficult climb.  Only 800 metres long but steep all the way up.  And there at the top were patches of the most magnificent Nepenthes pervillei growing, exposed to the full sun.   This is what I had come so far to see.  At this very moment a lady, 2 children and a dog appeared.  The dog immediately attacked me.  I finally kicked it over a cliff, only to see it scramble back.  From then on it stood its distance [1 metre] and just barked and jumped on the plants I was trying to get photos of.  The lady at no time acknowledged that I was there, looked at me, or said anything.  WEIRD!  This place was very dangerous to ever find your way down.  Finishing my photos, pH, G.P.S. and T.D.S. measurements I sadly but triumphantly made my way down. 

Colin on the mountain amongst Nepenthes pervillei.

Note the "dog" behind him!

Nepenthes pervillei in Seychelles

Nepenthes pervillei with flower spike growing up a tree.

View from the top of Nepenthes pervillei mountain

The walking track to the top of Nepenthes pervillei mountain!

Two free days were now ours, time to explore the museums, libraries, herbariums, what fun.  And most of all, to see the legendary Coco de Mer palm.  This palm's giant life sized seed is shaped like a woman's private parts.  Every tourist thing on the island has a representation of this seed pod on it.  Even the Immigration stamp your passport with a woman's private parts stamp.  We found the palms in the botanic gardens, and there was one planted 50 years ago by England's Prince Philip.  The palm was huge, and had 100s of these life size women's private parts coconuts hanging off it.  Some dignitaries plant rose bushes, but Prince Philip plants women's private parts trees.  The palms have male and female trees, and you guessed it, the male ones have a hundred or so giant meter long ******  hanging off them.  Legend has it that in the middle of stormy nights they break off and go searching for female Coco de Mers.  No human has ever witnessed this and lived.  Tina went shopping, everything was made from coconuts, wood, palm leaves and the finished products all looked like women's private parts.  She finally gave up in disgust.  You could actually buy the real things, $450 each.  Prince Philip's tree had enough nuts to pay off the 3rd world debts.  We had two days of leisure to explore this emerald gem-like island.  The tropical vegetation was magnificent, with giant creepers festooning everything.  All in all, a wonderful place.
 

Coco de Mer seed

A female Coco de Mer tree

A male Coco de Mer palm

Visit to the herbarium

HARD SELL
Now you have had a good free read.
But to really learn about the famous Nepenthes pervillei of Seychelles, and where to find them, you have to actually buy my books:
 
"SEYCHELLES CARNIVOROUS PLANTS - A FIELD GUIDE AND CULTURAL NOTES TO THE INDIGENOUS AND EXOTIC SPECIES"
BY COLIN H. CLAYTON, 2005.
Posted within Australia $35 + gst            Posted overseas $45
English text, paperback, spiral bound, 30 pages of text, color photos, maps and drawings.  Describes and tells, in detail, where to find the Carnivorous Plants of Seychelles.  Particular reference to Nepenthes pervillei.

"CARNIVOROUS PLANTS OF MAURITIUS AND SEYCHELLES - A FIELD GUIDE AND CULTURAL NOTES TO THE INDIGENOUS AND EXOTIC SPECIES" BY COLIN H. CLAYTON, 2005
Posted within Australia $40 + gst            Posted overseas $50
English text, paperback, spiral bound, 39 pages of text, color photos, maps and drawings.  Describes and tells, in detail, where to find the Carnivorous Plants of Mauritius and Seychelles.  Particular reference to Nepenthes pervillei.

 

CARNIVOROUS PLANT SOCIETIES OF THE WORLD
THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL CARNIVOROUS PLANT SOCIETY CONFERENCE - ATLANTA, U.S.A.
THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL CARNIVOROUS PLANT SOCIETY CONFERENCE - GERMANY
THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL CARNIVOROUS PLANT SOCIETY CONFERENCE -SAN FRANCISCO, U.S.A.
THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL CARNIVOROUS PLANT SOCIETY CONFERENCE - JAPAN
THE THIRD EUROPEAN CARNIVOROUS PLANT EXHIBITION - LEIDEN, HOLLAND
COLIN AND TINA'S TRIP TO SEYCHELLES-Nepenthes pervillei and the Seychelles odyssey
VISITORS TO TRIFFID PARK
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