E. de Flacourt, the Governor of Madagascar when it was under French rule during the mid-17th century, was the first to write about these tropical pitcher plants, of which there are more than 70 species. In 1689 J. P. Breyne described the plants and was the first to use the name Nepenthes. Digestion in Nepenthes was reported by J. D. Hooker to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1874. In 1875 L. Tate discovered the presence of a digestive enzyme in Nepenthes secretions. Thereafter the tide of opinion swept back and forth between digestion caused by enzymes and digestion by bacterial decay. Today it is recognized that both processes contribute to digestion. Nepenthes is derived from the Greek word "nepenthes" meaning the removal of sorrow and grief. It is also the name of a plant that is used with wine to make a potion or drug to relieve sorrow and grief and produce exhilaration.

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