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Thread: Hybrid Nepenthes Discussion

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    UnstuckinTime's Avatar
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    Hybrid Nepenthes Discussion

    So recently my significant other got into raising Poison Dart Frogs as pets. In that hobby, it is extremely taboo to keep frogs of different "morphs" together. Morphs are from different regions, and when they breed, the resulting progeny is "unpure." They worry about these getting back into the trading pool, and ruining the purity of the morphs. This was really interesting and got me thinking. In our hobby, people *try* to mix their Nepenthes to get new, interesting, and hardier plants. The orchid growing hobby is already decades into a similar trend, to the point where it's hard to nearly impossible to find a vendor that sells pure species anymore. This is especially true with plants that lend themselves to intergeneric crosses. My mother, who grew plenty of orchids in her day, gave me a couple species that simply *aren't* sold anymore, and a few hybrids that have "gone out of fashion" and aren't produced.

    Seeing what the orchid hobby is now, and what is happening with Nepenthes growers concerns me a bit. I find it harder and harder to find Nepenthes species available on all the retail websites I use to frequent. I've been searching for months of a simple N. ventricosa, but so few places, if any, carry that anymore. Has anyone else noticed this? The rise of ever more complicated hybrids while fewer and fewer sellers provide species plants? If so, does it concern you at all? I'm not advocating that we all become purists and never make hybrids, like the Dart Froggers, but I feel like part of the role we assume when we grow these plants is that of conservationists, and we have some duty to keep plenty species specimens around should they ever be lost in the wild.

    What're your thoughts?
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    Whimgrinder's Avatar
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    Caveat: the following may be regarded as potentially "off topic".

    Something I would include in this discussion is the practice of tissue culturing Nepenthes and then marketing the resulting plants as "conservation" material. I'm sure there are those that will happily argue that there is nothing wrong with tissue cultured plants, but I'm not so sure this is accurate, given the history tissue culturing has in genera like Orchids, where in vitro propagation has provided growers with numerous mutated, genetically damaged specimens that -needless to say - cannot be used for sexual propagation purposes.

    Can we say for a fact that tissue cultured Nepenthes haven't suffered the same problems? Just because a plant doesn't show conspicuous signs of genetic damage, can we trust that there is no damage that would be passed on to offspring should the plant be used to breed more of that species? Although there is still much debate about this, it is accepted by experienced growers of many genera that any single clone of a plant that is propagated over and over for many generations is likely to suffer genetic degradation (mechanism not fully understood) that can appear as loss of vigor, impaired health, and visible physical mutations.

    Speaking only for myself, should tissue cultured species become difficult to find in commerce, I wouldn't particularly lament the scarcity, except that it might push growers to seek out less ethical options to acquire, which would be undesirable.

    That said, if you want some seed-grown N. ventricosa, I can help you this Spring. (From seed given to me by a private grower who produced the seed himself; plants now fifteen months old.)

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    Well the big problem is that it is very rare to have two plants of the same species flowering together with the exception of nepenthes ventricosa. I mean how are we able to breed plants in cultivation if some species only have male representatives like nepenthes hamata, spathulata and possibly inermis. To be frank i think someone should go out and collect a batch of new seeds from every species and reintroduce everything into cultivation if we are to have stable populations in cultivation. And i know some people see taking seeds from the wild as poaching but i definitely dont if they are taken in moderation.

    Im also agains tc plants. Spathulata from be is already damaged, mine essentially flowered itself to death which is a bad mutation. If we have more seedgrown plants that will be less of an issue.

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    zesty. BioZest's Avatar
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    My knowledge of genetics is limited so correct me if I'm wrong but...

    I think that from a conservation standpoint hybrids might actually be better. I learned that an organism has a genotype and a phenotype, the genotype is its actual genes and the phenotype the physical expression of these genes. So if we had a plant that was the most average nepenthes ever, we could artificially select over, say 100 or 1000 generations, the traits displayed by N. Hamata and get something that is pretty similar to N. hamta...right? Even if this wasn't possible maybe it could be applied on a smaller scale by doing a cross between two species that could be bred back to *close* to that original species... The only reason to have species from a conservation standpoint is for genetic identity, but what's the point if you can get a plant with very similar characteristics?

    From a grower's standpoint I definitely prefer species. I think they tend to have more distinct traits that most hybrids...(which haven't been breeded for 1000 generations for certain traits ).

    So if ten or twenty years from now the CP trade turns out like the orchid trade, I think its OK. If the only things separating species are characteristics, then hybrids may as well be species themselves...I don't really think it matters all that much.

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    UnstuckinTime's Avatar
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    BioZest, you're right about the differences between phenotype and genotype, but if we ever got to the point of trying to selectively breed back the "pure" species, we run into problems. It's nearly impossible to independently sort the genes back to their original combination, especially in a plant like Nepenthes where the genome isn't manipulated easily. Even if we did thousands of generations of breeding (and can you imagine how long that'd take!?) we'd get maybe, what, one or two "pure enough" Nepenthes whatevers? I think it's far easier to keep the original species growing strong. I, like you, prefer species plants I think (which is why I brought up this discussion), and I am saddened that they seem harder to come across.

    Kevnep, I hadn't realized that there were only male N. hamata in cultivation. In that situation, I share your opinion on wild seed harvesting (done by professionals, with permits, and given to people who can be 'guaranteed' to grow them.)

    Whimgrinder, very good point about TCing plants. Not only do we dilute and mix the species we have, but spread damaged genomes as well! Looking at it from a commercial stand point, the time seed grown plants take, and variation they produce, is not viable (Which I think is what happened en mass to the orchid industry, with those "just add ice" phalanopsis, and indeed before!). Perhaps that's what makes the hobby-level growers that much more important.

    But will the trend of growing hybrid popularity make species plants scarce? And only in the hands of professional botanical gardens and excellent serious life-time growers like many of the gurus that frequent these forums?
    "The plants you grow, end up growing you."


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    Hi yes all the wistuba clones are male as far as i know and the be plants is likely also male since they probably used the same parent in their hamata crosses. Though wistuba has a female hamata that is likely seed grown but its not currently in tc.

    I think that you may be right, though ventricosa is a bad example because its everywhere. The new species are really slowly getting into cultivation and only by wistuba and as you all know he sells at very high prices that is keeping people from buying them. Compare this to the myriad of cheap hybrids ou there and we can clearly see why vendors are favoring hybrids, but the finicky nature of species contribute to this as well. Would you rather wait 14 years for a villosa or macrophylla to mature or buy a vent x tm and wait only a few years with less difficulty in cultivation?

    By the way when is the last time be released a new species or even some older species that are rare like the hairy hamata? Species plants are getting rarer ro come by, take for example spathulata. I know of only one place selling some seedgrown specimens, the rest are all one clone!!

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    Whimgrinder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UnstuckinTime View Post
    Kevnep, I hadn't realized that there were only male N. hamata in cultivation.
    Simply not true; yet another myth about the genus based on hearsay and anecdote. A quick glance at CPphotofinder will dispel this myth.

    In the past three years I have heard people say things like "oh yes - company X only sells males to their customers because they don't want people using their valuable females for seed production". That too is nonsense - a myth no doubt based on the fact that there is a disproportionate distribution of male-to-female in the genus. (Approximately 7 to 3)
    Last edited by Whimgrinder; 01-08-2014 at 02:54 PM.

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    Whimgrinder's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kevnep View Post
    By the way when is the last time be released a new species or even some older species that are rare like the hairy hamata? Species plants are getting rarer ro come by, take for example spathulata. I know of only one place selling some seedgrown specimens, the rest are all one clone!!
    At what point in the past twenty years have seed-grown species Nepenthes ever been easily found in commerce?! (Let's pretend, just for the moment, that Borneo Exotics didn't recently release a newly named species into commerce in vast numbers - over 2000 specimens shipped worldwide)

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