Re: In vitro Nepenthes

Ron Gagliardo (
05 Jan 95 20:10:28 EST

Happy New Year!
I saw the recent discussion on tissue culture sources, etc. of Nepenthes and
thought I'd share a few thoughts on the subject. I would urge anyone
soliciting plant material from any source, especially tissue culture sources,
to request data from their respective sources. It is my understanding that
many of the cultures of "rare" species may have originated from wild collected
seed. I realize that not all in vitro cultures originated this way, some may
have been started with seed produced in cultivation (I have started some with
seed produced in the greenhouse, as have others), but has anyone actually
flowered N. rajah male and female in cultivation??? Unless the collectors
were present during the pollination of the particular pods they collected or
know absolutely that there were not other possible parent species within
pollinating range (I confess to not knowing what such a range is) the only way
to discern the true identity would be to grow the plants out to an
identifiable size. Please understand, I am NOT attempting to discredit
anyone or their motives, as I think they are generally good and I applaud your
efforts, but I think that some of the folks who may not be so familiar with
the process need to know all the facts. I am not accusing anyone of
distributing plants that are not correclty identified, but I would be very
cautious of breaking open your piggy bank for Nepenthes species A, that might
turn out to be Nepenthes species A x species B. I have tried to retrieve
data for tissue cultured plants received and was told it was unavailable.
Don't just request the data, DEMAND it! There has been a big influx of seeds
and plants collected in SE asia in recent times and it seems like folks might
be retracing the steps of others because there is no circulation of data.
This is not in the best interest of the plants, nor of the collectors. I
don't know of a botanical "freedom of information act," but it seems like
we're past due for some coordination and cooperation in our efforts to
perserve these plants. Again, this is not directed at anyone in particular,
but a plea for growers to know your source and maintain the data along with
the plant.

In my opinion, the seller should be required to supply the following data with
their plants:

Collection location or cultivation source
collection dates
who collected it
if applicable, how long in vitro
how long out of vitro (important for your success in growing a new arrival)
If wild collected, possible male parent

Ask your tissue culture source if they have grown plants on to near maturity
or at least to a size that indicates a true identity.

As for the high prices, that's pretty much a matter up to the seller and
buyer. Having been in the tissue culture business for a number of years
(totally out of it now), I can say that large scale labs can produce an
established plant from tissue culture for $0.25 to $0.75 on average (that's
for foliage plants like spathiphyllum, anthurium, syngonium, ferns, etc.), BUT
that is when they gear up to do thousands of each variety. (At Hungry Plants,
we produced a couple hundred thousand Dionaea in 1992 and 1993 at prices in
that range, but with the exception of a few, most Nepenthes do not grow in
vitro as quickly as Dionaea, making this an unfair comparison.) The cost per
plant naturally drops as production is increased and becomes more economical.
The current high market prices for tissue cultured Nepenthes are needed partly
to fund direct operating expenses, but I imagine that a good part goes to
cover past and future seed hunts.

I better end with some more positive news, that being that tissue cultured
Nepenthes (and other genera, carnivores and non-carnivores alike) seem to grow
more vigorously possibly because they are more disease and stress resistant
than seed grown plants. This might be the factor breaks down some of the
barriers to their cultivation in our collections and that's a great thing to
look forward to!

Good Growing and Happy Hunting!
Ron Gagliardo