October 2010 Meeting

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010 at 10:43 am

The October GWAPA meeting was graciously hosted by Jeff Ucciardo.  Jeff is a long time GWAPA member and award-winning aquascaper and photographer, and his tanks were spectacular.

Cavan Allen from the Smithsonian Botany Department and GWAPA President Kris Weinhold gave a presentation on Native Collecting.  While many of the aquatic plants we use in our tanks originate in other parts of the world, there are thousands of plants in your own backyard (relatively speaking) that can grow and thrive in your fish tanks.  Kris and Cavan described some of their collecting trips, how they prepared for them, and what they found, sprinkled with funny stories.

Some of the main points of the talk were:

Do as much research ahead of time as you can.  The Internet is an incredible resource, including the USDA plants website, but you can often find collecting reports that go into such detail that they will highlight on exactly which part of the shore of a lake or stream a given plant can be found.

Also find out whether the plants you’re interested in collecting are threatened or endangered, and collect responsibly – don’t take more than you need, and leave plenty for mother nature to work with.

Be sure to examine fields and stream banks nearby your collecting location.

Aquatic or marsh/bog plants can often be found growing hundreds of yards from water sources, as a result of changes in the tides or recent weather changes (drought, etc.).

Bring photos or reference books showing the emersed forms of the plants you’re looking for, to make identification easier.

July through October is an excellent time for collecting.  Plants have had enough time to grow large enough to be easily found and identified (earlier in the year, there may be only sprouts you won’t see), and some plants may even be in flower.

Dress correctly, paying particular attention to tick detection and foot protection.  Pants with light colors can make seeing ticks or other beasties easier.

Many plants you collect from the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast regions expect a dormant period over the winter.  As such, they might do well in your tanks for a few months after collecting, but then die in the Spring because they never got the dormant period they expected and needed.

Kris and Cavan then reviewed some of the myriad species you’re likely to encounter on collecting trips (mostly focused on East Coast or Mid-Atlantic sites).

Fissidens species are widespread, and contrary to much of the published literature, can often be found in stagnant water.

Lilaeopsis chinensis can be found in brackish tidal areas from Canada to the Texas gulf coast.  It is highly adaptable, and so does very well in our freshwater tanks.  It is believed it thrives in brackish areas because there is less competition than there is in freshwater areas, and L. chinensis does not seem to handle competition well.

Ludwigia linearis was found in an area where the nearest water was almost a mile away, but the soil was quite damp.

Eriocaulon aquaticum has distinctive flower stalks that make it easy to identify.

Callitriche terrestris can be found in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and other areas.  It pearls nicely in CO2-suplied tanks and forms nice bushy growths.

Hydrocotyle sibthorpioides is not native to North America, but has been introduced from Asia, and makes a great nano tank plant.  Its leaves stay roughly dime-sized and it has an interesting chalky grey-green color when submersed.

Proserpinaca palustris is a unique plant with many different subspecies with lots of variability, highlighting why it’s always good to collect the same plant from different locations, as you might find a different variety than what you already have.

Diodia virginiana stays green when submersed and is slow-growing.  Makes a nice replacement for Bacopa caroliniana.

Lindernia dubia is very widespread and easy to grow.  It likes high light and looks great if you plant a whole stand of them.

Limosella australis is kind of like a micro-tenellus and is found in Virginia.

Hemianthus micranthemoides has an interesting history.  It has not been found in the wild since 1941.

Ludwigia x lacustris is a natural hybrid often found submersed but is relatively rare.

Penthorum sedoides grows like a bush submerged.  Very pretty and an easy grower.

Acmella americana is a member of the sunflower family that looks nice when submersed but explodes with growth when emersed.  It is also sold by pond retailers as a marginal plant.

Gratiola aurea looked like a very promising foreground plant, and Kris and Cavan drove all the way to Connecticut to collect it.  Turns out it doesn’t grow all that well in their tanks.  Sometimes things don’t work out.

Ludwigia palustris is a fantastic plant and extremely abundant locally.

Interesting in that its flowers have no petals.

Rotala ramosior is the only Rotala native to North America, and grows only in areas with water levels that change over the season.

There are numerous Potamegeton species native to North America, many of which like cooler water.  Unlike many stem plants that will branch out when trimmed to form a nice bush, most Potamegetons are not really trimmable.

After the talk, there was the normal auction (which had surprisingly few items in it, probably because of the recent Catfish Convention), as well as discussion, socializing, and snacks (including Arlene’s awesome pumpkin bread!).