The exact coordinates of the Cryptocoryne habitats belong to exclusive information and are usually not openly published either in scientific articles nor in collectors' blogs. It is not worth criticizing them, this is their bread and butter, and sometimes just good intentions focusing on preserving plants in nature. Me and my colleagues went on a February trip to Southern Thailand without informational preparation, relying only on our luck. It turned out that luck in this country often favors travelers. Having traveled a long way (more than 200 km) south from Ranong city with a stop at the coral Surin Islands, we stopped at one of the roadside hotels in the Khao Lak resort. For the first time in the seven days of the journey, we took the decision to stay at the same hotel for more than one night in order to get some rest, and therefore the plans for the next day only included visiting several small streams flowing into the Andaman Sea. Those streams were at a distance of just 10-20 km from the hotel (Photo 1).
Photo 1. The small river Bang Niang near the Khao Lak Resort in Thailand is the habitat of Cryptocoryne cordata var. siamensis. Photo by Dmitry Loginov.
But even this was enough to record another productive day in the expedition report. After an unhurried breakfast, we first went to solve a more pressing problem - currency exchange. Unfortunately, due to the sanctions, the Russian traveler has to use only cash, which tends to run out unexpectedly. Having successfully filled our wallets with Thai baht, we reached the first stream only by noon. The stream flowed along the road leading to the Ton Chong Fa Waterfall, which belongs to the Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park. We knew how high the prices for foreign tourists can be in such places, so we did not go to the source of the stream, but stopped the car on a road section with large tropical trees along the side of the road. Here, at least a little shadow fell on our vehicle, which gave us hope that it would not have time to turn into an oven in the hellish midday sun during the next hours.
Oh those sisters! Even being relatives, they usually have a huge number of differences, and this applies not only to their appearance, but also to the internal content, or – should I say? - character. Let alone the sisters (Figure 1), whom Mother Nature separated in space for several hundred kilometers over several million years...
Figure 1. Map of the Malay Peninsula with locations of two varieties of Cryptocoryne nurii. The insert shows a photograph of Mohamed Nur.
The first of them languished in the shadow of a tropical forest in the waters of the Telepah River (Sungai Telepah), that flows from north to south northwest of the Malaysian administrative center of Kota Tinggi (Figure 2). The thirty-year-old collector Mohamed Nur (Mohamed Nur bin Mohamed Ghose) was not a newbie in his field: he had begun collecting tropical plants for the world's leading botanical gardens at the age of 15. Perhaps it was his rich experience that helped him not to miss such a miniature aquatic inhabitant, which 7 years later, in 1935, was named after him - Cryptocoryne nurii.
For a long time I believed that Pikachu is a fictional creature that we can see only in computer games and cartoons, until I met it myself. Everything that Japanese designers had written about this Pokemon turned out to be true! Pikachu lives in flocks in the forests, and when its life is in danger, it falls to lots of small new Pikachus.
My Indonesian version of Pikachu has a red and green color (Photo 1), not that yellow which is typical for original character. Primarily, the tropical plant under the commercial name Schismatoglottis Pikachu (Schismatoglottis sp. "Pikachu") was discovered by the Japanese Kazuya Nakamoto in the forests of West Kalimantan about 10 years ago. Since that time, it has spread widely among hobbyists around the world due to its bright color. The reverse side of the leaves and petioles are rich crimson red, and the front side has a dark green color with a distinct metallic shine. This shine has given the plant its botanical name Schismatoglottis metallica S.Y.Wong et al. (now in press), a member of the Multinervia clade.
Photo 1. The cultivated specimen of Schismatoglottis sp. "Pikachu".
Waiting is a very strange feeling. Even the waiting for happiness is sometimes extremely painful. Time stops, the hands of the clock slow down, and the soul is torn in an effort to speed up the oncoming of the happy moment. Some plants, like humans, are not immune to this feeling. Today, the hero of my story will be an inhabitant of the northern latitudes, the most frost-resistant representative of the Aroid family – the Water Arum (Calla palustris, Fig. 1). This plant has only one, but a very serious opponent – the low ambient temperature.
Figure 1. The inflorescence of the Water Arum (Calla palustris) has a white spatha, which resembles the sail of a ship.
Waiting. The Water Arum waits for spring. Waits to find its happiness. And nothing can prevent it from achieving this goal, neither May frosts, nor excessive floods. Warm days will inevitably come, the snow will melt, and the white sails of Calla will curl over the swamps of central Russia.
I would like to devote this short story to a very pleasant and kind person - the Indonesian Welly Yansen, who suffered a huge and irreparable loss last December - he lost his beloved wife and long-awaited son at the same day. It is impossible to realize and accept, but life goes on. I will always remember our first pleasant meeting, and at this difficult moment in his life I want to express words of support and gratitude to him.
The following events took place in November 2019. My wife and I continued our journey around the island of Sumatra. We took a local flight from Medan to Pekanbaru (the capital of the Riau province). This is a large metropolis and a center for oil refineries, so we did not stay there for a long time and went by car straight from the airport to the south to cross the Equator. Our goal was the small town of Rengat, located almost on the Equator, or to be more precise, at a point about 0 degrees 22 minutes and 30 seconds south, i.e. in the southern hemisphere of our planet. The symbol of the city is the rather flavorless, slightly sour fruit, the June Plum (Spondias dulcis). Indonesians call it kedondong. But for a naturalist, the Indragiri River (Fig.1), which flows through the city and is the habitat of the Sumatran barb (Puntigrus tetrazona), is more important.
Figure 1. The Indragiri River (near city of Rengat).
The Pacific blue-eye (Pseudomugil signifier) is a species of the subfamily Pseudomugilinae. It is one of the most underestimated species of this family among aquarists. For example popondetta attracts the attention of fans with bright yellow fins, and iriaterinas has unusual braids and body shape, meanwhile the pseudomugil signifer can only rely on the color of the eyes and the interesting colors of the fins in males, which appears after many months of home maintenance. It is clear that with such background data, even considering the low price of these fish, this blue-eye species is familiar to a very narrow circle of hobbyists. Nevertheless, the idea of an article about this wonderful species came to my mind, but the lack of decent photos in our archives, and the busyness did not allow the idea turn into a paper.
But after we have been lucky enough to observe this species in nature, take many photos and even videos of pseudomugils Australian biotopes, all doubts were in the past. The species was first described by Rudolf Kner, an Austrian zoologist, in 1866. The specific name of the fish can be translated from Latin as carrying lights! Very romantic.
- Good morning! I would like to have some fries, some cheese sauce, and a Big Mac with Cryptocoryne, please.
-- Your order is ready, sir! Pick it up, please.
- Sorry, there is not enough Cryptocoryne here ...
- Oh, sorry. Our Cryptocoryne grows in the yard, take it yourself!
Despite the fact that this dialogue is fictitious, the described situation could well have happened in the small town of Kota Tinggi in the Malaysian state of Johor. The fate that had led me to the Malay Peninsula gave me a rare chance - to watch Cryptocoryne plants in their natural habitat, located within the city limits.
Cryptocoryne ciliata grew just 100 meters away from McDonald's and the city's central square (Fig. 1). In the morning hours, the Sungai Bang River, armoured with granite banks, looked lifeless. Rare pedestrians and a lonely angler who was checking his nets disrupted the quiet life of the provincial town (Fig. 2). Nevertheless, the huge amount of litter, dumped both, on the sidewalks and in the river, made me suppose that every evening this place transformed into a recreation center for the townspeople.
It's no secret that a tourist can have different aims: to go on a beach holiday, to taste local food, to learn about culture or architecture. It depends on the individual preferences of the person. Today, I suggest using a new term - “aroid tourism”, which in fact I have been dealing with for several years, going on trips to tropical countries. As in the case with a restaurant menu, for each region I visit, I make my own “aroid card”. As a rule, it includes both endemics of the area and plants with a wider habitat. The latter can also have their own individuality due to the geological and climatic features of the region.
Today I’m trying to compile an "aroid card" of the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc. It is very easy to do this for an area of just over five hundred square kilometers. It is enough to go to the tropical forest a couple times or to walk some kilometers along the bank of a small river. Aroids live in the tropics either along the river banks or in the shade under the canopy of the rainforest.
Fanciers of Cryptocoryne have a firsthand experience in challenges of keeping these plants from Malay Archipelago. Most part of Cryptocoryne from this region lives in Sumatra and Kalimantan, as well as small adjoining islands. The variety of species is huge. Today science knows more than five dozen species and subspecies of Cryptocoryne that have found their home on these islands. Almost all of them, with rare exceptions (Cryptocoryne ciliata, C. pontederiifolia, C. wongsoi and some others), live in small forest streams and rivers with very soft and acidic water (pH = 4-6; TDS = 5-40 ppm). At the same time, the water in the Moscow water supply system is close to neutral and contains by an order more hardness salts (pH = 7-7.5; TDS = 120-200 ppm). Given the sensitivity of Cryptocoryne to fluctuations in water parameters, considerable challenges come up in their maintenance. Some plants “melt down” within a few days after planting, while others stop growing and decay for a long time until they disappear completely.
Figure 1. A small creek with Cryptocoryne scurrilis on an hevea plantation in Sumatra (Riau Province). рН = 4.0, TDS = 25 ppm.
Today I will share my experience on how to keep soft-water Cryptocoryne species in your collection and enjoy watching these interesting plants every day.
Bucephalandra plants are currently the most promising plants in the Araceae family for keeping in decorative home aquariums. The small size, a variety of shapes and colors, slow growth, the ability to grow on rocks and driftwood - all of these features are undeniable advantages of these Kalimantanian endemics. Along with it, Bucephalandra are highly susceptible to diseases. And most of these pathologies come with the plants which were collected in the wild. In the mountain streams of Kalimantan you will never find a completely healthy Bucephalandra (Fig. 1).
Figure 1. Bucephalandra bogneri S.Y. Wong & P.C. Boyce in the wild. Note that many leaves suffer from anthracnose of unknown etymology (“brown spots”). Photo: D. Loginov.
Due to the fact that most of the Bucephalandra plants in the modern zoo industry are imported from their natural habitats, aquarists who buy them are in a very difficult situation. However, it should be noted that these concerns relate in lesser degree to those who keep the plants in submerged conditions, as under water most of the pathogens do not develop. At the same time, the growing of Bucephalandra in paludariums is almost impossible without a number of quarantine and treatment measures.