Location: Moist Midwest - 6b
Joined: Thu Dec 23, 2021 3:18 am
Byblis are a fascinating and wonderful genus of carnivorous plants from north Australia (plus the southern tip of New Guinea), and Western Australia (Pilbara, and the area around Perth). Byblis germinating and growing conditions can vary wildly between species, and even between different populations of the same species! For this reason, the relatively recent categorization of the Byblis genus into the current set of species, and the relative rarity of Byblis in cultivation, there is a lot of conflicting information out there regarding the Byblis species and their preferred care. If you see anything here that needs correction, please leave a comment down below, and if you have a source please link it!
For a more detailed explanation of the different Byblis species (as well as additional care and seed preparation information), feel free to check out this presentation on the subject I made for my local carnivorous plant society.
The Byblis genus consists of 8 species in two complexes:
Byblis Liniflora Complex (Annuals)
Byblis Gigantea Complex (Perennials)
The species marked above with an asterisk (*) are what I refer to as the "wet species" and their care is slightly different than the other species, as described below.
Potting and Media: Most Byblis grow in sandy peaty basins or seepage areas. I use a 1:1 mix of peat and sand, with some added perlite for aeration and to prevent compaction.Byblis liniflora generally prefers a 2:1 or even 3:1 mix of peat and sand. Adult plants enjoy deep pots, between 6 in. and 12 in. for larger species. Smaller species (Liniflora, and to a lesser extent Aquatica and Rorida) can tolerate smaller pots. Pot width is not strictly necessary, but appreciated, especially in crowded pots with many individual plants.
Repotting is not advised, particularly for plants taller than 2 inches, but is technically doable (at your own risk). If you must repot, do so as early as feasible, avoid disturbing the long, skinny root, and keep the root in contact with either its original substrate (preferred) or something like moist LFS to minimize dryness shock while repotting. In my experience, repotting Byblis, even when done well, generally stalls them for several weeks to a month.
Water: Low TDS water, generally preferring the potting media to dry out slightly between waterings (however with high light levels, more moisture may be tolerated). Most Byblis can be described as growing in the seasonally wet parts of dry areas, and as such evolved to thrive in conditions different than the bogs typical of many other carnivores. Wet species, as you may have guessed from the name, generally like more consistently moist substrate.
Light: High light! Byblis can tolerate a fairly wide lumination range, however for best results (and a beautiful red color in some species/locations) high light levels are preferred. Many Byblis grow in roadside seepage areas in or near desert, so they can handle sun well (as always, acclimate plants if moving from indoors to outdoors). Byblis like between 8 and 10 hours of light per day, however I give mine 16 with no adverse effects.
Temperature: Byblis prefer temperatures between 60°F and 85°F (15°C and 29°C), but can tolerate between 38°F and 100°F (4°C and 38°C) for a day or two.
Humidity: Byblis prefer humidity levels between 50% and 85%.
Fertilization: Byblis are very hungry. They appreciate feeding, foliar fertilization, and root fertilization. I personally regularly spray mine with 400 ppm MaxSea dilution, drip-feed their leaves with 800 ppm MaxSea dilution (which runs down their arms, coating their digestive glands in fertilizer, and then runs off into the substrate), and also occasionally sprinkle bloodworms onto them. An osmocote pellet or two in the pot may also be useful.
As always, fertilization is at your own risk, and fertilization needs are proportional to growth speed (which is primarily influenced by light strength and photoperiod, in favorable conditions). Therefore, if your growing conditions are not ideal, and your Byblis are growing slower, you should not fertilize as much. I've never had a problem with my Byblis being overfed or overfertilized, but to be safe I always wait until growth slows down (which is noticeable in the fast-growing annual members of the genus) before fertilizing again.
While I would not recommend any carnivorous plant for pest control purposes, Byblis come the closest to getting the job done, and will easily catch any small arthropodic prey unfortunate enough to happen upon them.
Flowers and Seed Collection
Byblis flower quickly and prolifically! The fastest carnivorous plants in my collection to flower when grown from seed are all annual Byblis, taking under a month from germination for the flower buds to first start appearing (with a 16 hour photoperiod and vigorous feeding). While stem cuttings can be taken from Byblis, the best way to propagate is via seed.
Most Byblis species require cross-pollination (either manually, or via pollinators if you grow Byblis outside) to produce viable seed. Byblis liniflora, however, is self-fertile and will actively self-pollinate and produce seed with no action required on your part. Byblis aquatica is also generally reported to be self-fertile, and I have personally observed it self-pollinate (however manual self-pollination or cross-pollination may be employed for best results). There is conflicting information on the viability of self-pollinating other species, however it is generally agreed on that even if possible, it is generally not recommended as Byblis can and do suffer from inbreeding depression after successive generations of self-pollination or pollination with close relatives. The flowers can last quite long - up to several months, giving you plenty of time to wait for flowers to appear on multiple plants to perform cross-pollination.
Like with heliamphora, pollination is greatly aided by the use of a tuning fork (or other vibrating object) on the anthers to release pollen. That pollen can then be applied to the stigma of another flower via a brush, a q-tip, or if you're lazy, (gently) grabbing the flower and shoving the stigma into the pollen that's been dropped onto the first flower's petals.
Hybridization is possible between members of a complex, and perennial Byblis hybrids and complex backcrosses in particular are known to produce surprisingly diverse flowers.
Seed Prepatation & Germination
In their natural growing environment, seasonal wildfires sweep through Byblis habitats after seed pods have ripened and dropped. The fires trigger pyrochemical processes which signal the seeds to start germination. There are several documented methods to prepare Byblis seeds for germination in cultivation. You don't have to treat your seeds for them to germinate eventually (particularly for Byblis liniflora), but if you don't, prepare to wait quite a while (sometimes up to several years). From a practicality standpoint, it's in your (and your Byblis seedlings') best interest for your seeds to germinate fairly quickly and at approximately the same time (for seedling repotting purposes).
More detailed instructions for each of these methods may be found online - here is a brief overview:
Method A: The Smoke Method (mimics nature, but can burn seeds)
Sow the seeds onto moist media and cover them, place the end of a roll of paper into the covered pot, and light the other end on fire until the seeds are covered in smoke. Let sit for several days before uncovering the pot.
*You can also burn leaf litter or other flammable material directly on the surface of the pot, however this has greater risk of burning seeds.
Method B: Acid Bath (consistent, but requires some precision measuring)
Soak the seeds in a 1000 ppm solution of Gibberelic Acid (GA3) for 24 hours (for annuals) or 5 days (for perennials). GA3 is available online as a powder, and generally requires a solvent (such as isopropyl) to dissolve in water. The addition of a drop of dish soap can break the solution's surface tension, resulting in more consistent reaction with seed coats.
*Lower concentrations (5 days @ 270 ppm for annuals) for longer times (with a drop of dish soap) have been reported very effective.
Method C: Smoke Water + Stratification (can get very high germination rates, but takes a long time)
Soak the seeds in smoke water (or karrikinolide solution), then cold-stratify (for annuals), or warm-stratify (for perennials) for 1-2 months.
Method D: Bleach Treatment (for Byblis Liniflora)
Soak seeds in a 1:10 solution of bleach to low-TDS water until the seeds are a pale gold color (several minutes), then soak them in low-TDS water for 30 minutes, then sow. I used a 1:10 ratio of with ~15% concentration bleach. If your bleach is less concentrated (check the packaging for small text), you may want to use something more along the lines of a 1:5 concentration. However, the exact concentration doesn't matter much - just keep an eye on the seeds' color to make sure they're bleached the right amount.
Method B (Acid Bath) Instructions (copied from my GA3 giveaway)
For easy reference, here are some instructions for how to make a 270 ppm GA3 solution, which I use to soak annual Byblis (other than liniflora) seeds in for 5 days. These instructions are for use with 1/64 tsp (0.07 ml, ~100 mg) of GA3. For other concentrations or amounts, use the attached table to determine required amount of GA3 and water. Note that TDS meters will not work to determine the ppm concentration of GA3, instead you may have to use... math!
You will need to provide:
- Low-TDS water (1¾ cups)
- Isopropyl alcohol (several drops)
- Dish soap (1 drop, optional)
- Paper towel
- Potting media and pot
- Pour 1¾ cups of low-TDS water into a glass or other container
- Drop several drops of isopropyl alcohol into the GA3 tube until the powder is dissolved
- Pour the GA3/isopropyl liquid into the water. I recommend submerging the whole tube to get it all out. Optionally, add a drop of dish soap.
- Stir. Now you have a ~270 ppm GA3 solution.
- Carefully fold your seeds into a small paper towel, making them secure.
- Place the towel into the GA3 solution, and leave there for 4-5 days. The paper towel should have some slight black staining.
- After 5 days, remove the paper towel from the GA3 solution and gently soak in low-TDS water momentarily to wash off any remaining GA3
- Sow the seeds.