Why Grow Hybrids?
Why grow hybrids ?
I am sure the title of this article is a question collectors of many different plant genera including Carnivorous plants and more specifically Nepenthes, have asked themselves or have been asked by other purist collectors many times over many years.
The simple answer to this question is another question. That is, Why are you growing plants ??
Is the answer, to admire their beauty and be in awe at the marvel that is nature? Or are you seeing how many species you can acquire and grow, the challenge? Is it a competition to see if you can grow more than someone else? Or maybe another reason?
What I remember is that all species, it is said, originally started from one. Therefore are all others hybrids? When does a hybrid become a species? A name on a plant either a species or a hybrid or a cultivated species or hybrid is only a classification to recognise it from other plants. Are we growing or collecting names?
I know if I had to choose one, I would rather grow an easy colourful hybrid that would grow with minimal care, producing one spectacular pitcher after another, rather than a species which has specific requirements that must be met to give similar results.
Except for natural hybrids, most of the Nepenthes that have been bred fall into two different categories. The first is the primary or F1 hybrid which is the result of crossing two species i.e. N.alata x N.ventricosa = N.Ventrata. The second is the complex hybrid which is the result of more than two parents. An example of this is N.Dyeriana which is the progeny of N.Mixta x N.Dicksoniana which equates to (N.northiana x N.maxima) x (N.rafflesiana x veitchii). There is also an F2 complex hybrid where the hybrid is crossed with other progeny from the same batch of seeds. That is N.Ventrata x N.Ventrata for example. These, to date are uncommon.
Most growers of Nepenthes are familiar with the primary hybrids and also if they do allow hybrids in their collection it is usually limited to these. The primary hybrids usually produce some spectacular results which are somewhat predictable, although some surprises do occur. Some amazing examples which we have produced in recent times are N.lowii x ventricosa-red, N.lowii x truncata, N.fusca x veitchii, N.truncata x hamata and N.thorelii x aristolochioides, to name but a few.
The complex hybrids are usually overlooked or passed off as rubbish, although there are some exceptional ones, such as N.Dyeriana, N.Minami etc. A lot of hybridisation and especially complex hybridisation has mainly been pot luck to date with growers hybridising with what ever is in flower at the time, without much thought. Yes, this has yielded some plants with pitchers that have had the ?why bother? label. Also growers or buyers are quick to judge an immature plant and pass it off as not worthwhile as it is a hybrid, especially a complex one!!!
Growers, I have written this article to say, ?Don?t be too hasty in your decision to rule out complex hybrids?. We are forerunners in Nepenthes hybridisation and cultivar selection and we are continually amazed at what can happen when selective breeding is carried out properly. Please see the photos in this article for some ideas of what we mean and how an immature plants change.
This brings me to another point regarding hybrids and cultivars and that is the naming of same. While the ICPS as introduced a method of registering and naming CP cultivars, we do not agree with it when it comes to the naming of Nepenthes hybrids and cultivars. This statement I know will produce conjecture but it has been our observation over 20+ years of growing and breeding these amazing plants that they should be named a little differently. It has been suggested that they be named along the lines of Orchids. While this has merit, one thing it lacks for Nepenthes is their dioceous nature. It is our opinion after many years of observation that if a hybrid of Nepenthes is produced with crossing say N.ventricosa and N.maxima and is named N.Red Leopard, the reverse cross that is N.maxima x N.ventricosa, should be named differently. Keeping in mind that the female parent is always named first. This we believe strongly as through our observation, the progeny of the two different crosses is notably different in most cases. This fact is also more evident when highland and lowland parents are used in the breeding. Not only do they look different but their growing needs are different. Two such hybrids that come to mind are N.ventricosa x N. rafflesiana and the reverse cross N.rafflesiana x N.ventricosa. At a glance the colouration of the pitchers is similar but that is where the similarities end.
N.ventricosa x rafflesiana displays the shape of the N.ventricosa female parent and the colour of the N.rafflesiana and can be grown from lowland to highland conditions. The leaves are a cross between the two with the petiole from N.rafflesiana somewhat reduced.
However the reverse cross is very lowland in it?s requirements with N.rafflesiana shaped pitchers and leaves.
I hope this article helps when debating whether to purchase hybrids and also in deciding if to buy complex ones or not. Personally, I would choose plants with spectacular pitchers that are easy to grow. If the plants are immature I would definitely look at the parentage before dismissing them.
How they change!!