16 October 2010

8th International Carnivorous Plant Society Conference (1/2)

Hortus Botanicus, Leiden, the Netherlands
In the beginning of August, I and approximately 120 other participants traveled to Leiden, the Netherlands, for the 8th International Carnivorous Plant Society (ICPS) conference held at the amazing Hortus Botanicus. The conference was hosted by the Dutch carnivorous plant society, Carnivora, and they did a fantastic job organizing the lectures, associated carnivorous plant exhibit, and all the extras. This will serve as my trip report for this meeting.

I arrived jet-lagged on 5 August, flights courtesy of my generous brother-in-law who shared his excess frequent flier miles. (Thanks, Doug!) I hadn't been to Europe in 9 years and I've never been outside the historic splendor of Italy, so this was a real treat to spend a little less than a week really getting to know Leiden. I was immediately awe-struck by the impressive Dutch rail system and how easy, clean, and fast it was. It puts the US Amtrak system to shame (but really, what doesn't?). Leiden is just a single stop from the Amsterdam area airport Schiphol; what a beautiful city! I learned a few lessons while here: Nearly every Leiden resident is willing to help you with directions and are used to it since their city is a confusing network of small alleys interrupted by canals. Nearly every resident speaks excellent English and are more than willing to try it out on a native English speaker. And, at every opportunity, go for a walk. This city is extremely walkable and gorgeous, filled with history and beautiful architecture. This is the city where Rembrandt was born in 1606, where one of Barack Obama's ancestors, Thomas Blossom, lived as an English immigrant on his way to America with a group of Pilgrims (the Dutch are very proud of that connection to Obama and had a very prominent plaque in the square where the Pilgrims once lived), and where Anna Cornelia Carbentus, Vincent van Gogh's mother, is buried. The central city is compact, ringed by a many-pointed star-shaped canal built for defense purposes and dotted with impressive public parks. Who can resist such European charm?

One of the many amazing displays in the
Wintergarden at Hortus Botanicus, part
of the public exhibition complementing
the ICPS conference. Bravo!
Putting my awe aside and getting over the jet-lag-induced migraine, I ambled down the road the next morning, avoiding the plentiful bicycle commuters and entered the gates of the Hortus Botanicus, the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands. Hortus Botanicus Leiden was first begun as a project for university students of medicine in the late 16th century; the very first prefect of the gardens was the famous Carolus Clusius, whose bust greets you as you enter the gardens. The weather was perfect and mild, especially inviting to someone escaping the heat of the Midwest United States in normally sweltering August. I was awash in a multicultural group, understanding very little (ok, perhaps nothing) of the many languages being spoken over my head. It was awesome and a bit intimidating. After checking in, it was just about time for the first of many lecture sessions.

The first lecture session included a talk by Australia's Allen Lowrie on Australian Drosera (sundews), a discussion by Gert Hoogenstrijd on his trips through Venezuela to the Table Mountains where many rare carnivorous plants are found, a report by François Mey on his incredible efforts to study the Nepenthes flora of Indochina, and lastly a thorough trip-report style lecture by Andreas Fleischmann on the Drosera and Roridula of South Africa. Truly a cosmopolitan collection of speakers and topics! I really do commend the organizers on working very hard to include something for everyone.

Allen's lecture captivated me the most, but the take-home message from all lectures seemed to be that there is so much more work to do in terms of systematic study of species, specimens, and species complexes to tease out the real evolutionary relationships and taxonomies. This was true for Allen's Drosera and Gert's Heliamphora and certainly the Nepenthes of Indochina have their own systematic issues when it comes to the circumscription of species, subspecies, and varieties. Such topics are best left to the experts and it was great to see such expertise on display.

Sarracenia flava var. cuprea in the impressive
Wintergarden canopy walk above the main collection.
The Drosera fascinate me most of all, so I suppose this is why I found Allen's lecture the most compelling. My notes are scattered since he spoke quickly, but there were many gems within his lecture, including the fact that there's an Australian Drosera in the petiolaris complex that survives under water for one and a half months among tadpoles and that there are so many truly distinct species to split from existing species complexes. The breadth of his knowledge on the topic comes from decades of field work that allows him to accurately distinguish minute differences among populations. My notes from Gert's lecture are sparse, but one interesting note is that the South American endemic species Utricularia quelchii is likely pollinated by hummingbirds. A common characteristic all these lectures shared was the splendid and impressive photos displayed during each one. I can hardly imagine what previous generations of botanists did without digital cameras!

I'll stop here and post the remaining trip report, including two more days of lectures, later.

08 October 2010

Nepenthes 'Alata'

It's always interesting to go back through old photos and realize how your plant specimens have grown, given the proper care and treatment. I happened to pick up this Nepenthes 'Alata' from Oakland Nurseries in Delaware, Ohio in August 2007. It had a Deroose Plants tag on it, so it is likely is the Nepenthes 'Alata' cultivar that they produce. I'm not sure of the hybrid parentage, but it obviously has heavy Nepenthes alata influences.
28 August 2007, right after I first got her.

13 August 2008. Almost a year later and she has grown so much! Still in the original pot, but not for long.

3 October 2010. I moved her to the Kenyon College greenhouse and repotted in a much larger container. She has gotten so large now that I tie up the longest lianas on the greenhouse infrastructure. The longest liana measures at over ten feet and she's still growing!