The process of sustainable production of artificially propagated Nepenthes has several phases as summarised in the flowchart below:
The process starts with legally collected seeds, or seeds propagated from our own mother stock. These seeds are then sterilised in our laboratories and sown in sterile working chambers onto nutrient jelly or 'media' that contains all the nutrients required by the seedlings as they grow.
Once the seedling, or 'plantlets' as they are then called, have attained sufficient size, they are put onto a different media that contains chemicals which induce them to 'proliferate', or produce shoots. These shoots are then teased apart to produce more plantlets, some of which are further multiplied with the balance excess over the requirement for multiplication being then removed from sterile conditions to be weaned in the nurseries and grown for sale. This process is indefinitely sustainable and any number of plants can be raised from an initial plantlet derived from a single seed.
Artificial propagation of potentially vast numbers of plants from a single seed is clearly very beneficial for conservation, since a parent plant will produce many thousands of seeds per year and theoretically only one is needed to initiate the process. In practice, Borneo Exotics may germinate up to 300 seeds of any one variety in sterile culture in order to maintain a large number of individuals in the laboratory. This is also important for conservation, since if the species becomes extinct in the wild it's important to have a large gene bank in cultivation and not just a single individual clone. When a particular individual clone is selected as being horticulturally desirable, the other clones are not all discarded but some are archived in the laboratory in case they are needed in the future.
The Weaning Phase
excess plantlets after multiplication, destined for the nurseries, are then 'weaned' in a special nursery where fairly low light levels and very high humidity are maintained at all times. There are separate weaning areas for lowland and highland species. In general, lowland species should be weaned and grown at day/night temperatures ranging between about 24 - 32 deg. C (75 - 90 deg. F).
Highland species require temperatures ranging between about 13 - 26 deg C (55 - 80 deg F). Borneo Exotics' weaning chambers are designed to provide these conditions regardless of weather and different highland and lowland requirements are perfectly catered for by having nurseries at various altitudes. The weaning process can take from between 4 and 16 weeks depending upon species.
Growing for Market
Once weaned, the plants are transferred to more normal nursery conditions with higher light levels, where they will begin to produce tough leaves and attractive pitchers. They are grown on like this for many months, or if necessary even several years until they are ready for market. The nurseries are completely covered and protected from insects and other pathogens. Preventative regimens of fungicides and insecticides are applied as appropriate.
Strict hygiene is observed in the nurseries, with germicidal foot baths between individual sections of nursery buildings. All these precautions help ensure that the plants are as free from harmful pathogens as possible. To date, we have never had a single problem with plant quarantine inspections in foreign countries, even after countless shipments all over the world over the past decade.
Four of the nursery buildings are located at sea level and another nine buildings at an altitude of 1,500m. This diversity of environments enables easy maintenance of conditions optimal for all species of Nepenthes with minimal need for special equipment or unusual measures. Environmental conditions in various nurseries are modified to suit the purpose for which they are required. Some species of Nepenthes require high light levels, whilst others prefer more shaded conditions but all require high humidity to grow optimally.
Stock Plant Nurseries
Several hundred mature plants are kept as breeding stock, from which we are continuously producing many hybrids new to cultivation. This is one of the most exciting aspects of the business, since the potential for breeding highly attractive, hardy and vigorous new hybrids is vast and still relatively untapped. This can be compared to the early stages of the orchid industry more than a century ago. Many people are not aware that the vast majority of species orchids are relatively small or otherwise unattractive. The orchids one sees being sold commercially today are almost exclusively hybrids, often compound hybrids bred over many generations for certain traits. This is where the future of Nepenthes breeding lies.
Borneo Exotics is producing many hybrids never seen before, including recreating some of the most desirable and rarest natural hybrids ever seen in the wild. The demand for these hybrids once they reach market in significant numbers will be unprecedented. Many of the new items can be found on the photo gallery of the catalogue page.