The developmental biology of the Nepenthes trap rim, a superhydrophilic, antiadhesive plant surface

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science by Research (MScR)


The pitcher trap rim of Nepenthes (the peristome) is a highly specialised plant surface that holds unique micro-structuring, unlike any other leaf. The mature peristome exhibits a hierarchical microtopography of radial grooves and ridges, rendering this surface highly wettable, and anti-adhesive to insect feet when wet. The function of the peristome as a slippery trapping surface is well documented, however, nothing is known about how the peristome develops. Since the peristome forms within still-closed pitcher buds, studying this surface requires the termination and dissection of growing buds. To address this, one key aim of this study was to link the outer macro-development of the bud to the inner micro-development of the peristome. From this, a framework to predict peristome developmental stage, without the need to destroy a developing bud, was created. I hypothesise that to produce this novel surface, Nepenthes employ common epidermal patterning processes and utilise them in a unique way. I predict that the internal development of the peristome can be reliably linked to the external development of the bud, using outer morphological markers. Here the timelines of internal and external development are characterised and linked for the first time. We confirm that the peristome develops via a series of widespread epidermal patterning processes e.g. papillate formation, cell outgrowth, and cell elongation. These events are co-opted in a novel way during peristome development. This research provides an exciting new insight into the development of a highly complex, inspiring, and biomimetically useful plant surface.
Date of Award22 Mar 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorUlrike Bauer (Supervisor) & Heather M Whitney (Supervisor)


  • Nepenthes
  • Peristome
  • Development
  • Epidermal patterning
  • Epidermal development
  • Plant surfaces

Cite this