We were given seed from the original discovery of N. naga and only one germinated. We grew it to a reasonable size but unfortunately lost it. The most unfortunate thing though is it is the only plant we have seen to date that matches the type description and photos.
A few years after this we saw plants posted as N. naga in CP forums and they had very dark purple lower pitchers and only small remnants of the lid’s notable apical appendage and usually this was squarish and misshapen, the like which has seen on plants described as N. bongso. This intrigued me and had us wondering what was happening so we started to do some research. I obtained some of the seed that was being offered as N. naga to germinate and grow out to see if it was the described species or something else.
It has now been several years since that time and the plants from this batch of seed have grown out, matured and flowered. We ended up with a male and a female and to us it was evident that these plants did not represent the type species but seemed to most likely be a primary hybrid with the nearly black form of N. bongso also known to be widespread across the Barisan Mountains, Sumatra (Pitcher Plants of the Old World. Vol. 2. S. McPherson), the type location.
Although these have flowered and we have hybridised with them, from what we have seen this year they had not reached their mature size and have continued to change. However, still, from what we have seen, these and the many similar plants labelled as N. naga that we have seen growing in collections worldwide do not represent the type description. We will elaborate.
It can be observed that there are many traits in these plants being sold today as N. naga that are from N. bongso and why we say that it is a hybrid with this species. The most noticeable and obvious are the reduced, usually deformed apical lid appendage, the absent or reduced undulated lid margin, the pitcher hip, the pitcher colour and the pitcher shape. If the plants are examined a bit more closely the following are also described N. bongso characteristics. The red mid-rib colour, the leaf shape, the lid shape, the internal pitcher colour, the silvery indumentum or remnants of it on the edges of lower leaves and the lack of the second basal lid appendage.
It must be noted here that N. bongso is described as a variable species. However, as with any field observations, the possibility that any variations are due to hybridisation are very high. The idea of another species needing to be close to produce hybrids is not necessarily the case with pollen carriers such as insects, birds, rodents etc. being abundant in tropical forests and roaming far. In this situation when so many characteristics from one species can be observed in a separate species and only part of those of the type, and when distinct contrasting differences can be observed just by looking at the plants and comparing them to the type description and photos, one can confidently claim an obvious case of hybridisation. Certainly there needs to be more observations in the field on N. naga to see if the original type population still exists and also further study of N. bongso which seems to cover a broad range of plants.
Photos are always a better way of pointing out what words (descriptions) are trying to convey and the contrast of what we have known as N. naga and what is recently called the species is very evident with a glance.