Tahitian Vanilla: Origin of its specificity

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J.W. Moore described in 1933, the first time the vanilla plan grown in Tahiti as new and endemic specie, Vanilla tahitensis. It has never been described anywhere, neither in cultivated areas, nor in Central America, where the vanilla plant originates from. Vanilla tahitensis does not exist in Polynesia or in the Pacific under a form other than the one of cultivated plant, from 1951, it was argued that it was a hybridization between several species Vanilla planifolia and Vanilla pompona, itself already a hybrid of Vanilla odorata. Some wanted to consider Vanilla tahitensis as derived from Vanilla planifolia.


In order to answer those questions that are foremost for any protection project about the Tahitian vanilla, the Etablissement Vanille de Tahiti has conducted research to elucidated genealogy of vanilla plants grown in French Polynesia.
vanille verticale
Mrs. Sandra Lepers-Andrzejewski, in charge of the research department at the Etablissement, has carried out the research within the framework of her thesis and thanks to genetics studies carried out with the University of California, it has been shown that V tahitensis is a hybrid between Vanilla planifolia and a specie close to Vanilla odorata. Therefore the Polynesian vanilla plant is to the called "Vanilla x tahitensis", "x" indicating a hybrid and not a specie.

 

Genetic mapping studies carried out at the laboratory of the Etablissement Vanille de Tahiti and cytogenetic studies carried out jointly with the cytogenetic platform – CNRS of Gif sur Yvette (http://www.ifr87.cnrs-gif.fr/pbc/presentation/index.html)) and the Orsay University (http://www.ese.u-psud.fr/) have enabled to understand processes having lead to the existing diversity amongst Tahitian vanilla plants. Therefore all various morphotypes (Haapape, Rea rea, Parahurahu, Puroini, Paraauti, Potiti, Pupa, Oviri, etc...) originate from the same parent, the "Tahiti" form.