Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Field Trip Part 1: Nepenthes at Predatory Plants

Today I had the pleasure (along with my friend Anne from the Cactus Jungle) of visiting the San Francisco greenhouse of Josh Brown, BACPS President and owner of Predatory Plants. Josh is one of the rare growers that is able to turn an interest in carnivorous plants into a livelihood. He specializes in Nepenthes and Drosera, but he has a decent selection of Sarracenia as well, and is slowly building up his stock of Pinguicula.

Josh and I routinely have good-natured arguments about whether or not Nepenthes suck and are stupid. While I'm not about to rush out and build a highland greenhouse, this visit was a big step in convincing me that maybe they're not as lame as I've always felt (sorry Nep lovers). First though, he wanted to show off some ant plants.

Myrmecodia ant plant species.
Myrmecodia sp., looking rad as hell.
Myrmecodia ant plant flowers.
Those weird white bumps are flowers. Funky.
Hydnophytum ant plant species.
Hydnophytum sp. Josh likes the bulbous ones.
These funny-looking epiphytes grow internal chambers in those big swollen stems, which are then colonized by mutualistic ants. These are pretty uncommon in cultivation in the US, but are apparently pretty quick-growing and often self-fertile. Josh is working with one of his greenhouse-mates to figure out good ways to cultivate/sell these. Pretty exciting for anyone with a decent greenhouse!

Nearby were the first of the day's neps: Nepenthes ×briggsiana (which is lowii × ventricosa), and a variegated Nepenthes alata.

Nepenthes ×briggsiana.
Dig that color gradient!
Variegated Nepenthes alata.
I think I like this plant, even though Josh doesn't.
The N. alata was very striking, but apparently Josh sort of hates it – like most variegated plants it's finicky and not particularly vigorous. Still, people always clamor for variegated neps – which are pretty uncommon – so he keeps on propagating them. He loved the hybrid though, which I can totally understand.

Down at the other side of the greenhouse space was his work area – announced by this profusion of Nepenthes "Lady Luck" (i.e. ampullaria × ventricosa).

Nepenthes "Lady Luck".
That's a lot of plants!
Josh is growing these guys to use with Borneo Exotics' new Bio-Dome system. The thing looks gimmicky at first, but based on what I've heard from several different growers I actually think I'm going to buy one once they're in circulation. Good-looking plants too!

Next up are three big flowering-size plants: a Nepenthes truncata with a 4-foot flower stalk, "Papa ventricosa," and "Mama maxima."

Nepenthes truncata with flower.
The light made getting this shot really hard.
Nepenthes ventricosa.
Great color on this N. ventricosa.
Nepenthes maxima.
Love those speckles.
Josh really likes F1 Nepenthes hybrids, and he's used all of these plants for some nice-looking crosses. Again, seeing his collection started to bring me around to the idea that simple crosses are pretty cool. We agree though that complex hybrids are usually muddy and boring-looking.

Josh has a few great Nepenthes ventricosa hybrids (see the N. ×briggsiana above), and he also has several really nice Nepenthes hamata hybrids, such as this wicked Nepenthes singalana × hamata.

Nepenthes singalana × hamata.
Hairy and shiny.
Great teeth!

Finally, let's leave with some species, since at the end of the day species are what fascinate me.

Nepenthes aristolochioides.
Nepenthes aristolochioides always makes me want to crack my back.
Nepenthes sanguinea.
Totally eye-popping Nepenthes sanguinea.
Nepenthes argentii.
Look at that cute little Nepenthes argentii.
That N. sanguinea is huge, and it's one of the prettiest clones I've ever seen. The N. argentii is the smallest nep in the world. Josh has a hilarious story about how he first imported a couple dozen of them when he was just getting started and sold like 5 of them for $20 since he had no idea what they were worth on the market. He uh, doesn't sell them for $20 any more.

Check out the Predatory Plants Facebook page for more sweet carnivores, and I think Josh is on Instagram too, but I don't know for sure. And check back soon for part 2, when I get to look at plants that I actually want to grow!


  1. Badass greenhouse! Thanks for the photo tour. :) Josh is indeed on Instagram:

    I read "Nepenthes aristolochioides always makes me want to crack my back" and I'm like, "what does that even mean? Hmm, my back needs pop" Haha!

    I am totally nep-inexperienced but aristos are my favorite, aesthetically.

  2. You can add a little water garden to most any garden and do it reasonably. I have an old can that I keep unplanted in my garden. This water doesn't run, it's there for the creatures. We've as of late had a group of foxes move in and they appreciate a new savor the mornings and nighttimes when the garden is cool and welcoming.