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An Abnormal Flowering Sequence

One of my plants, Nepenthes spathulata x maxima, has shown an abnormal flowering sequence. First, the plant flowered while still producing lower pitchers. This in of itself may not be abnormal, as Nepenthes may flower when certain light conditions exist. In the wild, the lighting condition is increased as the climbing stem places the plant higher in the air and above other growth on the ground. If the light intensity is artificially increased in cultivation, I could see where a Nepenthes may flower while still producing lower pitchers. I placed a message on the CP Listserve, and contacted several friends to see if they have ever seen this happen. Although noone I have talked to has seen it, and this is the first occurance for me, I could at least logically see where this may happen. I also know that Nepenthes can flower when stressed. Many times after I cut a Nepenthes, the growing tip cutting will produce a reduced flower stalk. I wondered if this plant was stressed, but it was growing normally and did not appear to be stressed in any other way.

The plant produced a male flower, and I used the pollen to fertilize a female red ventricosa. I wanted to determine if the pollen from this flower was viable, unviable, or possibly the plant is sterile. (Some Nepenthes hybrids are reportedly sterile, and some species may not be able to be crossed with one another. This may be one of several reasons why complex hybrids in the wild are rare.)  The female ventricosa ovaries appear to be expanding, so it looks like fertilization has occured. It will be a few more months before I know for sure.

As I continued to watch the plant, I discovered that after producing two leaves after the flower stalk, that it was sending up another flower stalk. Again I placed a message on the listserve and contacted some friends, but noone had heard of a plant doing this either. While many of my Nepenthes frequently flower 2 or 3 times a year, I have not seen a plant flower in succession so quickly. The second flower was also male, as is expected.

Well now I can report that the plant has grown an additional leaf, and is putting up a third flower stalk. The pictures below show the three stalks. The oldest is dead and withering, the second is just now maturing , and the third is just now emerging. I'll keep an eye on the plant to see how many successive flower stalks it puts up. But I am at a loss as to why the plant is doing this. If it suddenly dies, then I will know that it had something to do with stress, probably due to a loss of the root system. I dont want to disturb the plant yet, so I have not checked the health of the underground stem and root system.


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A picture of the Nepenthes spathulata x maxima. Although a stem is forming, the plant is still producing lower pitchers. (One can be seen to the lower left.) The first flower stalk is dead, but still attached. The second is tall, with most of the flowers above the picture. The third is just emerging from the stem.