Cryptcoryne xpurpurea – Yet another can of worms…

June 27, 2008 at 1:45 pm | Posted in cryptocoryne | 2 Comments

Hybrids have always been the most interesting group to study. While creating laboratory frankensteins is generally frowned upon by many, on the basis of ethical concerns, the occurrence of natural hybrids has astound countless. The driving motivations and mechanisms behind the hybridisation process, the reproduction biology of the hybrids and their survival are just some questions whose answers scientists are still working on.

Hybridisation occurrence in lower form organisms have long been recognised by researchers, with plants hybrids being far more rampant than animals. With many of them being polyploidic, the ability to form hybrids all so readily is much more common in plants, most noted in plants which have developed an ornamental use, e.g. orchids and pitcher plants. The number of orchid hybrids produced by the Singapore Botanic Gardens is so numerous, the records of well-known or famously-named ones are thick enough to be compiled into copious volumes (See Sander’s works on documenting orchid hybrids). The common occurrence of plant hybrids has made us almost take them for granted, like one couldn’t care less about Nepenthes xhookeriana, which is formed from the hybridisation of N. ampullaria and N. rafflesiana. Well, at least most folks don’t.

Natural hybridisation of Cryptocoryne spp. in comparison are far less common and precisely so, attracted quite a fair bit of attention from researchers and hobbyists alike. In Sri Lanka, we have C. xwillisii, previously C. nevillii, whose parentage has always been a source of mystery and confusion for many. Then there’s the famous C. xtimahensis whose narrow distribution has caused much of a mayhem within the crypt fanatics circle, especially in Japan where prices of a single stalk escalated to an unbelievable price of USD200. Then again, Japanese have always been known to pay the top dollar for anything new and crazy. Anyway, we’ve digressed…

A most recent contender in this world of hybrids is probably C. sp. “Kota Tinggi” which is postulated to be a hybrid formed from 3 species which can be found in the southern parts of Peninsula Malaysia. But as to which species the parentage turned out to be, this can of worms we leave it to the scientists to open.

And as if issues are not complex as they are already, a hybrid may formed from species which themselves exhibit geographical and morphological variation resulting in a permutation of possibilities. And C. xpurpurea provided that exact twist to the tale. C. xpurpurea, initially thought to be a species in its own right was first known from its variant found in Tasik Bera, Pahang, Peninsula Malaysia. The irony is said that when Rubber Ridley first found and cultivated it from specimens collected from Kota Tinggi, he exclaimed that this was the most easily cultivated species. Big words from a … well, big man. This claim was further backed up by De Wit more than half a century later (1964) who claimed it to be the most widely cultivated aquarium species in Europe at his point of writing.  Strange it seems that it seems like their claims turned out to be curses as this taxon completely vanquished itself from the aquarium trade for the next 50 years. Its circulation had never been revived since. Jacobsen classified this as a hybrid from C. griffithii and C. cordata var. cordata and promptly named it C. xpurpurea nothovar. purpurea; nothovar being the ICBN term for variation within hybrids. The secret population in Southern Johor, once thought to be lost has been rediscovered by Sasaki but this variant is  most famoulsy known from the protected conservation sites in Tasik Bera. Kudos to Ms. Sim Cheng Hua for her work in collaboration with Ramsar on its conservation. It has even made it onto a stamp in Malaysia!

Another variant to this hybrid was discovered by Sasaki in 1999 in Sampit, Kalimantan Tengah which was named by Jacobsen in 2002 as C. xpurpurea nothovar. borneoensis. Parentage traces back to C. griffithii and another variant of the cordata complex, C. cordata var. zonata. So does the story end here? Far from it…

According to Sasaki, the localities in the Sampit-Kasangan area yield loads of similarly looking crypts from various forms and colour morphs of C. cordata to C. edithae to undeterminable “cf.” forms of these two species. To add more spice to the “fun”, some forms of C. cordata are basically indiscriminate from C. edithae themselves!!!

A couple of years later, interesting news came from the northern parts of Borneo, from Lundu Sarawak where another “form” of C. xpurpurea seems to have been found. But then again, the big question is, “Is it C. xpurpurea?” C. griffthii ‘s distribution on this large island is known from Banjarmasin and the other selatan areas mentioned above with no known records in Sarawak. Then again, do the parent species have to be found alongside/near the hybrid localities? Apparently not as hypothesised for C. xtimahensis whose parentage are widely thought to be C. nurii and C. cordata var. cordata, both not found on this small red dot. Michael Lo, who saw the inflorescence in situ in Feb 2007 postulated this hybrid to be formed from C. cordata var. zonata and C. longicauda, the latter a widely distributed blackwater species in Sarawak. This new kid on the block is currently known as C. xpurpurea “Lundu”.

 I had the opportunity for some specimens in Mar 2008 and one of them promptly sent out a spathe for me about 3 months later.

 When I discovered the spathe, it was already quite developed, hence the duration of the “spathing” process could not be determined. The spathe looks rather different from the one Michael saw in his field trip, but such deviation could be expected given the differences in cultivation conditions.

Closeup of kettle contents

This is a rather easy crypt to cultivate in emerse conditions, given blackwater conditions. It sends of shoots rather prolifically and certainly took a very short time to become established when conditions are fulfilled. It makes a good “test drive” for anyone who wishes to venture into blackwater crypts and should do so before attempting more challenging species.





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  1. Hello Alan,

    A really nice issues about hybrids, specially interesting the part on purpurea, probably is one of my favorite crypts.

  2. Hola!
    Yah, it’s an interesting crypt to start with, since it’s parentage is still much of a mystery. I have a couple of specimens. hopefully they would send out spathes for me soon for some further observations on spathe variation etc., to be made. 🙂

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