The Carnivorous Plant FAQ v. 11.5
- courtesy of -
The International Carnivorous Plant Society

Q: What is tissue culture?

"Banded" Dionaea
A: Some growers prefer to avoid matters of planting media entirely and propagate their plants in petri dishes in laboratory conditions. This is called tissue culture (TC) or in vitro propagation. Despite its peculiar nature, tissue culture is often the best way to propagate plants rapidly.

Tissue culture has its greatest utility in rapidly propagating rare species or new cultivars. It will be an important tool in a project the ICPS is using to try to protect the exceptionally rare Nepenthes clipeata from extinction.

The easiest way to do tissue culture is by starting with seeds, which can be sterilized while keeping the seed alive. It is much trickier to get living plants into tissue culture.

Clumping Dionaea
There is an interesting phenomenon associated with plants that have recently been planted from tissue culture into regular planting media. Perhaps because of weird hormonal imbalances, it sometimes takes a few years for the plant to grow normally. For the first few seasons, plants from tissue culture (especially Sarracenia and Dionaea) may grow in a dense clumped way, and do not settle down into one or two growing tips. They also seem more resilient to cultivation errors during this time. I have heard people speculate that the plant is just wildly happy that, fresh from sterile tissue culture, it does not yet have the normal pathogens or parasites that regular plants do. Who knows...

I have never tried tissue culture. I like the smell of wet Sphagnum too much. However, while writing my book I researched tissue culture and wrote a fairly long section on it....which I ultimately had to excise from the text because of space constraints. But, since it was a good chunk of information, I have posted it for you in the FAQ library.

If you want still more information on home tissue culture, you can look at what Rick Walker has posted on the CP database. Also, there are usually some people on the net who are involved with tissue culture, and you can meet them via the mailing list.

Page citations: Darnowski, D. 2004; Rice, B.A. 2006a; personal observations.

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Revised: January 2007
©Barry Rice, 2005