by Jan D. Bastmeijer ~ 2016
Suwidji Wongso & Co.
These pages are on the cultivation and taxonomy of plants of the genus Cryptocoryne & Lagenandra (Araceae)
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Where they grow

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Habitat pictures are now almost common, partly because the equipment is widely available, but mostly because the SE Asian friends themselves discovered the beauty of their countries and inform us about it through their blogs. See the Link page for a few of them.
Before the 80s, publications about the habitats of Cryptocoryne are scarce. The first detailed descriptions were made by Bogner, Horst, Jacobsen, Schulze and Tomey. However, physical and chemical data are still scarce and mostly represent a single moment in the year. In these years the Cryptocoryne export was dominated by both Ong's, from Singapore and from Kuching.
But also, the habitat information may be misleading, as in cultivation the imitation of the habitat may be not successful. Almost all difficult to grow species do very well semi-emerged in a layer of decomposing leaf litter of the beech tree Fagus sylvatica, a common tree in Western Europe.

Click on the picture to enlarge, click on the NAME to go to the page
C.pallidinervia fus1705m.jpg (11670 bytes)
One of the first habitat pictures of Cryptocoryne, made by Driessen (1975), is from C. pallidinervia growing in a peat swamp forest in West Kalimantan (Indonesia). Read the articles of his friend Anderson about peat domes (Document service)
photo Driessen
The Driessen C. pallidinervia was cultivated emerged with success in a mixture of quartz sand and peat litter with artificial fertilization. After a few years the plants became smaller and smaller and finally disappeared.
cult. B 104
This picture from the 50s (!) shows an unknown Cryptocoryne, grown in the Botanical Garden in Bogor. De Wit interpreted it as C. longicauda. When live plants were found by Tomey, he described it as C. fusca.
photo Kebun Raya Indonesia
Tomey traveled in the 70s many times in the Malay peninsula and Borneo. He was the first who found C. fusca in the Mandor river in West Kalimantan near Pontianak (Indonesia). Today the Mandor river is heavy polluted, caused by mining.
photo Stam
bul493m.jpg (14461 bytes)
A very difficult plant to grow is C. bullosa from Sarawak. It grows mostly in swift running water, hence in a sandy / loamy bottom. Attempts to imitate this in cultivation were not very successful ...
photo Jacobsen
... The trick is to cultivate it in beech tree leaf litter. The plant multiplies and flowers. Key factors may be the loose structures and the prevention of root rot by the (very) acid conditions. Nearly all Cryptocoryne grow well at a very low pH.
photo Jacobsen
Espinosa and Bastmeijer in search for spathe's of C. pygmaea on the bank of a tiny stream in Palawan (Philippines) ... ... When digging out the plant they found lot debris (a coconut shell, a baby bottle ...) in the soil under the plants. Apparently the plants are able to withstand a new layer sand, deposed during high water. The point is that Cryptocoryne grow fast under the right conditions.
coll. B 794
A visit (1999) with the Oriental staff to a plantation where the ditches were filled with C. longicauda. May be planted for the trade? For irrigation, the ditch was cleaned up. The pile in the foreground consists of a few hundred (fruiting) plants.
A few of these plants propagate very well in cultivation in beech tree leaf litter.
coll. B 789, cult NJ
photo Jacobsen

C. minima is widely distributed in West Malaysia and Sumatra. The plant may be able to re-colonize this plantation.
photo Jacobsen
In Singapore you can go by car to see C. griffithii. However they don't like to see you going in. When there are no roads, you must go by boat. Wongso on his trip in North Sumatra to find C. minima.
photo Wongso
May be you have to go through deep mud to find Cryptocoryne in West Malaysia. Leen and Ila from USM returning from sampling C. ×purpurea.
photo Jacobsen
Jacobsen, Bogner and Ipor at a C. ferruginea locality on limestone in Sarawak.
photo Jacobsen
The identity of C. cordata var. grabowskii was difficult to understand because of the TYPE specimen in Berlin was almost destroyed in WW2.
herbarium Berlin
Idei with Budianto and Wongso, were able to find again the type locality N of Banjarmasin - or what is left from it.
coll. A-4G, photo Idei
C. cordata var. grabowskii from the type locality ! ...
coll. A-4G, photo Idei
... and in cultivation.
coll. A-4G, photo Idei
Yeok Ong at his office in Singapore in 1999. In the 60s he played a great role in the export of Cryptocoryne. Y. Ong had a lot of local collectors all over Malaysia. It is almost certain that he shipped this C. zukalii to Europe and the USA. Very probably collected on the Malay peninsula. It is never found again.
coll. unknown, cult. B 908
Henri Ong (at right) from Kuching with staff and two young visitors: Bogner (with mustache) and Jacobsen (1978)
photo Ong
New plants were shipped to de Wit at the Wageningen University, who was the then authority, and further distributed.
Read the lecture on habitats by Niels Jacobsen (1986) for an overview.

Updated July 2012


Anderson, J.A.R., 1963. The Flora of the Peat Swamp Forests of Sarawak and Brunei, including a catalogue of all recorded species of flowering plants, ferns and fern allies. Gard. Bull. 20 : 131-228 + map + 10 phot.(Document service)
Anderson, J.A.R., 1964. The structure and development of the peat swamps of Sarawak and Brunei. J. Trop.Geogr. 18 : 7-16. (Document service)
Horst, K., 1986. Pflanzen im Aquarium, Ulmer.
Jacobsen, N., 1982. Cryptocorynen, Kernen.
Jacobsen, N., 1986. Deterioration of the habitats of the Cryptocoryne species. Symposium 'Troebel Water', Dutch Waterplant Society / Aquarium vereniging Ludwigia / Werkgroep Behoud het tropisch Regenwoud / Agricult. Univ.Wageningen. (Document service)
Jacobs, M., 1986, Het Tropisch Regenwoud, Coutinho.
Kasselmann, C., 1995, Aquarienpflanzen, Ulmer.
Mabberly, D.J., 1992, Tropical Rain Forest Ecology 2nd ed., Blacky / Chapman and Hall.
Schulze, J., 1967. Beobachtungen über Wasserpflanzen in einigen südostasiatischen Ländern I-IV. DATZ 20 : 211-215, 248-252, 279-282, 312-314.
Schulze, J., 1971. Cryptocorynen aus Sarawak I-IV.DATZ 24 : 230-233, 267-270, 303-306, 336-339.
Schulze, J., 1978. An den natürlichen Standorten von Cryptocoryne aponogetifolia Merrill in den Philippinen. DATZ 31/9 : 310-314.
Whitmore, T.C., 1990, An intoduction to tropical rainforests, Oxford Univ.Press.

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