Although many growers, like myself, focus on collecting the true species of Nepenthes, hybrids can be a very rewarding venture. Starting back with the Veitch Nurseries in 1862, John Dominy created the first manmade hybrid, N. x dominii. The team of very capable hybridizers at Veitch nurseries began crossing hybrid after hybrid. Taplins efforts in America at the Such nurseries in the late 1800's, Dr. Kawase's many contributions in the 1970's-1980's, and Bruce Lee Bednar and Clyde Brambletts efforts recently, as well as many others, have all combined to create literally thousands of hybrids.
One reason hybrids haven't demanded the enthusiasm they deserve lately could be the sheer number of choices a person can be faced with. Without pictures or descriptions of the hybrids, one has a difficult idea envisioning what a plant may look like. A picture is worth a thousand words except in Nepenthes collections, where a picture can be worth a thousand dollars. But why are there so many hybrids? There are two main reasons. The first is that some people enjoy creating hybrids. The other has to do with the fact that Nepenthes plants are either male or female. For a grower to have a male and female plant of a species in flower at the same time can be a challenge, or downright impossible. Many plants are propagated via rooted cuttings and now, tissue culture. Propagation with these methods, as far as we can tell, lead to the propagated plants being the same sex as the host. So if a species, such as a male N. rafflesiana, is propagated via cuttings, the resulting plants will be male. This form of propagation led to many same sex species in cultivation, making it difficult to get two sexes of the same species in flower. (The one noted exception is N. khasiana, in which a large number of seedlings were widely distributed, placing both sexes in wide circulation.) Therefore many hybrid crosses were made due to the fact that they happened to be the only plants in flower at the given time. This also led to many complex crosses, in which the offspring had 3 or more parents. So the sheer number of hybrids and complex crosses can be overwhelming. If nurseries were to post pictures (via the internet, for example) some crosses are likely to be placed in high demand. When N. xBriggsiana "Peter D'Amato" was published in the Savage Garden, demand skyrocketed for the plant. This has been true of some of the victorian hybrids as well, such as N. xMixta and N. xDyeriana. I believe many hybrids will face this sort of demand once they have their pictures posted.
The appeal of hybrids is multi-fold:
1. Hybrids are usually much easier to grow than either of the parent. Species such as N. northiana was lost in cultivation just years after it was introduced in Europe, but hybrids that they were able to cross with N. northiana were much easier to grow, and are still in cultivation today.
2. Hybrid plants can possess a trait known as "hybrid vigor." This usually causes the hybrid to be larger and more robust than either of the parents.
3. Extreme variability in coloration can be realized in hybrids. Candy cane peristome striping and other beautiful effects are possible. Plants like N. veitchii, which normally produce golden yellow pitchers, have been crossed with N. maxima. The resulting hybrid, N. xTiveyi, produces pitchers that look like N. veitchii, but have beautiful striped coloration inherited from N. maxima.
4. The pitcher shape can be dramatic and features overexaggerated in hybrids.
Hybrids Worth Collecting
Any of the "old victorian hybrids" are well worth growing. These hybrids have been propagated by cuttings since the first was created by John Dominy in 1862, N. dominii. Besides N. Dominii, some of the other victorian hybrids are:
N. cv 'Lady
Created by Borneo Exotics, this hybrid has been registered as a cultivar. Its a
cross between N. maxima and N. talangensis. The lower pitchers resemble large N.
talangensis pitcher, but with more robust and darker coloration. The uppers look
like N. maxima uppers, but with more coloration. The plant pitchers very well,
and is quite the ornamental.
N. xMixta - Created
by Tivey in 1893, he crossed the difficult to grow N. northiana with N. maxima. Easier to
grow than N. northiana, it prefers stovehouse conditions. I grow them in a mix of
environments, and the plant really seems to need high humdity in order to pitcher, a trait
that comes primarily from N. northiana.
N. xMixta Upper Pitcher
N. xDyeriana - This plant is a giant, a trait it no doubt inherited from it's four parents. Tivey created it in 1903 when he crossed his N. xMixta with (N. rafflesiana x N. veitchii). A beauty, lower pitchers on my plants can reach lengths greater than 14", and uppers have exceeded 17". The coloration of the lowers are crimson/bronze, and the uppers are giant cornucopias with a candy cane striped peristome. Both uppers and lowers have significant peristomes. The lowers can morph itself to resemble any of its parents, and can even look like a clumsy rafflesiana with a big floppy hood. It is very easy to grow.
N. xDyeriana lower pitcher
N. xTiveyi - Another
beauty, this plant is a cross between N. maxima and N. veitchii. The pitcher retains much
of the N. veitchii shape, but has the coloration of N. maxima. The flaring peristome is
green when the pitcher first opens, turning pink to red within a few days of opening.
N. xTiveyi (note the edges of the peristome of this newly opened pitcher begining to tinge a rose colored red. )
Other hybrids worth growing are:
N. truncata x veitchii - Produces peristomes of exaggerated size. Otherwise, an intermediate between the two parents. The coloration is a bronzed red, which is intensified by the hairiness of the pitcher. The pitchers get very large. The overly wide persitomes is shaped so that the pitcher opening forms an upside-down heart. (See below)
N. truncata x N. veitchii
N. truncata x alata "striped" - The influence of truncata on this plant causes everything about the pitcher resembling an alata to be over exaggerated. The waist line of the pitcher is so flexed it appears to be hour glass shaped.
N. bellii x N. ventricosa - Another nice hybrid, this plant's pitchers are intermediate between the two parents. Much easier to grow than the standard bellii, the pitchers are simply beatiful. They are colored a blood red, and are attached to the leaf by very long tendrils. (A trait it gets from bellii).
N. bellii x N. ventricosa
N. spathulata x N. maxima - Another nice hybrid, this plant's pitchers are intermediate between the two parents. N. maxima's coloration comes through, as does N. spathulata's peristome.
N. spathulata x N. maxima
N. xHookeriana - A naturally occuring and widespread hybrid, this plant was the first Bornean Nepenthes introduced into cultivation, and was the first reported Nepenthes to flower in cultivation. It was thought to be a separate species, and then a variety of N. rafflesiana. A plant that is an intermediate between the parents in practically every way, it is a very attractive plant due to the shape and color of ther pitchers.
Nepenthes xHookeriana (a terrible picture, i'll try to get a better one posted.
N. xTrichocarpa - This is a natural hybrid of N. gracilis and N. ampullaria. It's remarkable that I can remember this plant being sold as a separate species as recent as the late 1980's, and it has been known for quite a long time. It is only found where its two parents grow, so it is a little odd that it was not reconized earlier as a hybrid. It does resemble a more bulbous gracilis than that of ampullaria, which is undoubtedly why it was deemed a species for so long.
N. xCincta - A cross between N. northiana and N. albomarginata, this hybrid is a dead ringer for a "rubra" red albomarginata. One must be careful, as an untrained eye could not tell the hybrid from the species.
N. xCincta Upper pitcher. Can easily fool someone into thinking it is N. albonarginata "rubra".
N. xMastersiana-Created by another Veitch grower, Court, it is named in honor of Maxwell Masters. It was the best hybrid made to date, and is a cross between N. khasiana and N. sanguinea. The pitchers retain much of the khasiana shape, but with much crimson intern blotching that occurs in the form of sanguinea.
N. xRokko - Another widespread hybrid, this one was created in Japan. It was a cross between N. thorelii and N. maxima. The Japanese utilized N. thorelii heavily in their hybrids. N. thorelii adds brilliant crimson coloration to hybrids, as well as can cause the pitchers to "tub out" into wider proportions. The complex hybrid N. xRokko x N. thorelii produces pitchers that are much "tubbier" than that of N. rokko.
N. spathulata x N. veitchii- A cultivar of this hybrid is called N. xJudith Finn, and this plant is becoming a widespread grown hybrid. The pitchers are intermediate between the two parents. My hybrid is colored similar to veitchii, as has a pronounced peristome like the two parents.
N. xVentrata - a cross between N. alata and N. ventricosa, it is a very easy plant to grow. There was much more press about this plant decades before, but I have seen little comments or interest in it in the last 10 years.
N. xMerrilliata - This plant might be called an accidental cross between N. merrilliana and N. alata. Sometime in the early 1980's someone in the world thought they had created N. merrilliana seeds. In actuality, some or all of the flowers of N. merrilliana was crossed with N. alata. I personally bought what supposed to be an $80 N. merrilliana in the late 80's which ended up being N. xMerrilliata. So much confusion this created, that I have heard that Australia still has few true N. merrilliana plants in cultivation even today, as many plants that were believed to be the species were actually N. xMerrilliata.
Dr. Kawase in Japan created many different hybrids. Each of his hybrid ends in the name "KOTO". Many of these crosses are widely distributed.
There are plenty of hybrids that are desirable, but that only a very few specimens exist. These are usually only reproduced via cuttings, therefore they are not readily available.
Rare Natural Hybrids
There are several natural hybrids worth noting. These are beautiful plants that have not or are just now entering cultivation. Indeed some are very very rare.
It should be noted that some Nepenthes species do not hybridize that readily in nature, even if they are in flower at the same time. Also, the resulting hybrids could end up being sterile, or otherwise may not be able to reproduce. This makes complex hybrids extremely uncommon in the wild, whereas they are more readily produced in cultivation. Complex hybrids where three or more species make up the parentage parents do occur naturally, but it is not very common.
N. xTrusmadiensis - A cross between N. macrophylla and N. lowii, there are only a few plants known from Mt. Trus Madi, from which it is named. N. lowii which grows on this mountain is noted to be substantially larger than other populations, including those found on Mt. kinabalu. N. xTrusmadiensis is one of the largest Nepenthes known, and this is from just a few plants in which to study. Pitchers can be a beautiful intermediate between the two parents, but some of the pitchers may suffer major deformation due to N. lowii's influence. I believe this plant is in cultivation now, but is still very rare. There may be some plants identified as N. macrophylla
N. stenophylla x N. veitchii- Pictures of this plant from Charles Clarke's Nepenthes of Borneo are simply beautiful, and they look like N. veitchii pitchers that have been elongated. The pitchers and plants can apparantly get enormous as well.
N. lowii x N. pilosa - Another beauty, this hybrid produces handsome pitchers that can be colored entirely dark scarlet. The pitchers have much character, and do not resemble the parents unless you were to really think about the features.
N. xAlisaputrana - Any plants in which N. rajah is a parent is highly sought after. N. xAlisaputrana (rajah x burbidgea) is stunning and can be as large or larger than rajah. The plant can resemble rajah, and Adrian Slack has a picture of N. xAlisaputrana in his book that was labeled as N. rajah.
N. xKinabaluensis A natural cross between N. rajah x and N. villosa, it is a beautiful intermediate between the two parents.
N. xHarryiana A natural cross between N. edwardsiana and N. villosa, it is also a beautiful intermediate between the two parents.
I will be including more hybrids as well as their photos. If you have a hybrid which you would like to share with all of us, send me a picture of it and a description of its features and what you like about it. I'll post it here giving you credit for the submission.
Yasuhiro Fukatsu has created an extensive web page of hybrids. It's in Japanese and English, but easily understood once you get past the Japanese language symbols. His web page is http://plaza27.mbn.or.jp/~Nepenthes_hybrid/.
Beyond the popular hybrids, which are usually readily available, there are plenty of new and amazing hybrids that are