The International Nepenthes Grex Registry (INGR) was an idea conceived and developed in an international forum conference on the internet forum www.pitcherplants.proboards.com in the later months of 2006. In August of the next year the proposal was presented at the Sarawak Nepenthes Summit 2007 by Hans Breuer.
From 2007 until 2013 the INGR enjoyed an interim home at the internet forum website www.floranepenthaceae.com where a crude and difficult to manage interface was hastily constructed. It quickly became clear that the forum format did not lend itself to the kind of user interface an efficient registry would require nor could it accommodate the kind of data storage and retrieval necessary to registry function. In 2009 the search began for someone with the technical skills to construct a permanent website and home for the INGR. An individual was found and work was begun but was, due to unfortunate circumstances, never completed. For the next year or so the project lay dormant.
In 2012 I had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of a highly talented and enthusiastic young man by the name of Nicholas LeBlanc. To my further good fortune and to the good fortune of the INGR he was both willing and capable of not only coding and constructing the necessary website but was also very knowledgeable of Nepenthes. Nicholas LeBlanc has for the past two years dedicated many hours of his time and labor to building this new home for the INGR and he deserves the credit and thanks of all those who seek to see systemization and order brought to the practice of naming and documenting the derivations and origins of Nepenthes hybrids now and in the coming decades. This database and website will come to fruition only because of his tireless efforts and he will, due to his intimate knowledge of the website, database and Nepenthes cultivation serve as a member of the Board of Registry of the INGR.
Little has changed in regard to documenting the efforts of Nepenthes breeders since that first conference almost 7 years ago. It was true then and it remains true today that if, those involved in breeding Nepenthes want a consistent and informative system of record then, they will have to do it themselves. The alternatives of 2006 are as unacceptable today as they were then while the need for a consistent and informative system of documentation has continued to grow at a faster and faster pace. No new alternative to the INGR has been suggested or formulated in the past 7 years and none are on the way.
The INGR will soon reappear in the public eye along with a campaign touting its benefits and urging its use. Even the best system of record is of little value if it is not used. This has been the case with the INGR for the last few years. There are two main reasons for the INGR’s failure to grow with the primary reason being its lack of an efficient and effective web-based interface. Making the INGR’s “interim home” at www.floranepenthaceae.com did more damage than good for the registry in that it not only presented the system with crippled functionality and undue complication but it also made it appear to be the “******* System” rather than the independent, board governed, international system that it was always intended to be.
When the new INGR website is presented to the Nepenthes community it will be in a form much closer to what was originally envisioned with a clear and simple presentation, easy registration procedures and dynamic search capabilities.
A breeder’s registry would ideally record every detail of the plants bred. Not only regarding discriminating morphology features but also information about the plants environmental tolerances, growth patterns, seasons, scent, prey, etc. Each of these factors might then be studied in subsequent generations and allow us to determine the algorithms of its genetic heritage. It is important know the factors that join plants into a species concept but it is essential to know the dis-similarities, the particulars that distinguish one plant from another of that group if we hope to breed to a particular end. Such a registry would, of course, be entirely impractical and doomed to failure by its overambitious goals. The goals of the INGR are modest by comparisons to such a system. In fact, the INGR will record only the most basic of information.
Although the goals of the INGR are modest they are fundamental and, with the INGR emphasis on picture based rather than taxonomic descriptions it provides a record a thousand times more powerful in its descriptive capabilities. The most powerful aspect of the INGR is its reliance on the “pictorial description”. A plant is primarily defined by its pictures and then secondarily defined by it taxonomic description. It is the position of the registry that Nepenthes taxonomy alone is insufficient to the descriptive requirements of a consistent registry.*
Over the past years, while Nicholas worked in his precious few spare hours building an appropriate interface and database for this project, I have had opportunity to discover both advantages and flaws in the system as formulated 2006 and 2007. The flaws are mostly minor and pertain to some particular naming situations that can be addressed by the Registry Board in due time. On the other hand, we have all now witnessed numerous scenarios unfold that show the important advantages of the INGR over any other system of derivation documentation yet developed or proposed.
The success of the INGR will depend upon its acceptance and use by the major individuals and institutions involved in actively breeding Nepenthes. There are still only a relatively few individuals and companies around the world involved in systematic breeding efforts and if those individuals can be persuaded to participate then, it will set an example of international cooperation and consistency that the rest of the world will follow. The INGR will help to bring a new, long overdue, level of order and consistency to the world of Nepenthes cultivation and breeding.
Make no mistake, the INGR is a tool designed for breeders of Nepenthes as its primary intended audience. However, Nepenthes breeders are not the only individuals that will benefit. Collectors and enthusiasts around the world will, as time passes and participation grows, surely avail themselves of its listings and search capabilities in their efforts to better understand the plants they so love to grow. Arrangements have already been made for direct links from the INGR to Bob Zeimer’s www.cpphotfinder/Nepenthes.html
The INGR is a voluntary system and some may, for their own reasons, choose not to participate. Registering a single plant is straight forward and requires only a moderate amount of effort. For the breeders with much larger inventories the task is not so small and one should not expect that the INGR to become populated with all these creations overnight. With the new website all the previously registered greges are now in the process of being reloaded. I believe we will have somewhere between 50 and 100 grex registrations available for viewing by the end of this coming January.
In Peter D’Amato’s new revised edition of The Savage Garden he speaks of the “New Wave” of Nepenthes breeders and growers and I, along with Geoff and Rob are mentions as examples. The truth is I will soon be 62 and Rob and Geoff are not many years younger. What difference will the INGR make in my life, what difference for Rob or Geoff? I think it’s fair to say “Not much”. Although I understand Peter’s point, time never stands still and the “New Wave” will soon become the old. The INGR is for the “Next Wave” of Nepenthes cultivators and breeders, a long overdue effort to bring greater order to documentation in that art, a humble but valuable gift to the future of Nepenthes cultivation and breeding.
In conjunction with the appearance of the INGR website in January there will begin a campaign to promote its acceptance and use by those involved in making Nepenthes hybrids. Exotica Plants has registered a number of their creations, I am adding to and reloading my previous registrations. Jeremiah Harris, Lam Weng Ngai, Suwarum, Suphawut, Joel Stern, Bob Hurrell, Steven Stewart and Shinya Yamata have also contributed by adding some of their creations and Peter D’Amato will soon follow. In the coming months the INGR and its members will be making every effort to gain the participations of growers in SE Asia and Europe. It is very much hoped that Borneo Exotics and Melasiana Tropicals can be persuaded to participate in the future.
Example 1: N. x Splendiana
N. x Spendiana is a hybrid created by Bruce Bednar. The derivation of N. x Splendiana is, according to records, N. kampotiana x maxima. This may seem straight forward enough at first glance but upon closer examination this apparent clarity begins to become clouded. Up until very recently the certainty of taxonomic definition with regard to the species of the SE Asian countries has been anything but certain.
There are a great number of Nepenthes hybrids that have been defined as progeny of N. thorelii, N. kampotiana, N. semilisi, etc. These plants were bred and the parental species identified in good faith according to the taxonomic references of the time. This would be all well and good if Nepenthes taxonomy was a static, consistent and complete practice but it is not. In fact, Nepenthes taxonomy is not static, often inconsistent, far from complete and, although the situation is improving, it does not provide the degree of characteristic specificity necessary to a modern breeding record.
Mr. Bednar specified the female parent of N. x Splendiana as N. kampotiana and he was correct in doing so. The female plant he used did not change in the subsequent years, the taxonomy did. Now, in retrospect and in light of new taxonomic formulations with regard to SE Asian plants, we are tempted to ask “Was the “N. kampotiana” used by Bednar in N. x Splendiana really N. kampotiana as it is defined today? Or, was what was called N. kampotiana at the time really N. similisii or N. bokorensis or some other species. Since there are no pictures or even drawing of the particular female plant used in N. x Splendiana we will probably never know the answer to the above question with any certainty.*
I have used this example before in attempting to clarify the power of a “pictorial definition” based breeding registry. In this example I have always placed emphasis on the uncertainty of the N. kompotiana in the above example. However, just in the few years since I began using this example we have all witnessed the unfolding of a different kind of uncertainty with regard to the male parent of N. x Splendiana. In the case of the female N. kampotiana our uncertainty is in regard to species classification: was the plant really N. kampotiana, as we define it today, or another related species wrongly classified. In the case of the male N. maxima the uncertainty of characteristics arise not from a question of species assignment but rather a question of species specificity. In recent years many previously unknown populations of N. maxima have been identified and the range of secondary characteristic exhibited in those newly examined populations (color, pitcher shape, plant size, growth characteristics) has changed what was once considered a clearly defined species into one of the more dynamic of Nepenthes species classifications with a much wider spectrum of characteristic expression than previously thought.
Example 2: N. alata x truncata
Just how many N. alata x truncata greges are out in the world today? I have made this cross multiple times with different, from the breeder’s point of view, N. alata. I am also aware that Geoff and Andrea have made this cross with “different” N. alata, that this hybrid combination was made numerous times in Japan and elsewhere and that, on top of that there exist natural hybrid combinations of N. alata and N. turncata.
As in the previous example a very few years have made for a very different situation. Once again what would appear to be clearly defined by taxonomic methodology is, in breeder’s application, nebulous and lacking in definitional specificity. The once apparently singular species N. truncata has in recent years had to be broadened to accommodate a much wider range of characteristic expressions both physically and environmentally in order to include newly discovered populations. We now have “red”, “black”, highland and lowland, terrestrial and epiphytic N. truncata (plus the new N truncate-like species, N. robcantleyi).
The species N. alata has and continues to morph into a small family of species ( N. extincta, kitanglad, kurata, leyte, micramphora, etc.) with, again from a breeder’s point of view, a very wide range of definitional characteristics and expression potentials. The lack of definitional specificity in the species N. alata makes for a range of characteristic expression far too wide of be of much use to the breeder. To use examples from my own breeding efforts N. Kona and N. St. Conrad are two greges with the same taxonomic derivations but with distinctly different characteristic expressions. To consider them the same, both just N. alata x truncate, would be to ignore their obvious and distinct differences in expression and be of little use to the breeder trying to refine or accentuate desirable or favorable characteristic expression in future generations. In order to facilitate purposeful breeding a system of record must be able to document the characteristics of a singular plant and the widening definition of N. truncata along with the taxonomic splintering of the species N. alata only further exacerbates this effort.
N. alata, N. rafflesiana, N. maxima, N. ventricosa and N. mirabilis are obviously in their descriptive deficiency but it is a matter of degree and to a greater or lesser extent this is true of all species. Less obvious insufficiencies are also to be found in species that, at first, might seem to be unambiguous. Even well and newly defined species like N. bokorensis can display a very wide range of characteristic expression and it is exactly these individual differences of expression that are at the heart of Nepenthes breeding and record keeping.