Last week a box came with a new order from Asiatica Nursery. All of the plants were aroids and it included some pretty great stuff. I was mainly after selections for ripariums, so I looked for plants that can potentially grow well with their roots in wet media. Naturally, the most promising kinds of plants for this application are those that grow in swamps and similar habitats in nature.
Recently I have developed an interest in one particular group of aroids, tribe Schismatoglottideae. This group of genera includes Schismatoglottis, the most species rich genus with about 100 described taxa, as well as the smaller genera Aridarum, Bucephalandra, Phymatarum and Piptospatha, which each include from one to a dozen or so species. There are a number of scientifically and horticulturally intriguing features of these plants. Their geographic distribution is centered mainly on the island of Borneo, although various Schismatoglottis species range more broadly though Southeast Asia.
There are three excellent references detailing the scientific classification and ecology of the Schismatoglottideae that are available online in pdf format. I link them here with the following short list:
It appears that there has been quite a bit of recent taxonomic work on this group of plants. Genus Piptospatha has apparently been split into a couple of new genera, Bakoa and Schottarum. I haven’t yet reviewed it–I can’t wait to give it a read!–but this link goes to the one reference that I found already on these new genera.
Many of the Schismatoglottideae are attractive plants with potential for decorative indoor gardening, although they have thus far been used little in this way: Schismatoglottis in particular includes species with appealing natural variegation and other foliage features. Most of the species among the other genera are rheophytic, growing on wet, streamside rocks. As such they might be good candidates for growing in ripariums and similar kinds of model ecosystem displays, but they have seen very little of this sort of use. A few groups of popular aquarium plants, including Anubias sp. and Bolbitis sp. that use similar sorts of habitat substrates in nature are good subjects for riparium growing as emersed foliage. Piptospatha and others also feature striking floral structures, a topic that I intend to treat in a future blog post.
Here are some shots of the two Schismatoglottis plants that I received along with the names offered in the online catalog.
Schismatoglottis pusilla 'Frosty Kiss'
‘Frosty Kiss’ is a horticultural variety name. Via the International Aroid Society online message board, Aroid-L, I received a suggestion for the this plant. Peter Boyce, an aroid researcher and Schismatoglottideae expert based in Indonesia, indicated that Schismatoglottis ‘Frosty Kiss’ is a variety of S. pusilla. This species has a natural distribution in the Phillipines, but has been in cultivation for a few years in Thailand and elsewhere as a small attractive foliage plant. I believe that this one might be a good candidate for growing ing ripariums. According to the Hay and Yuzammi paper in the wild S. pusilla grows in “Wet places in forest floor”.
My plant came with several rhizomes and sets of leaves, so I was able to divide it into starts for several pots. The largest leaves were about 4″ (~10cm) in length.
The picture above shows a single leaf for the plant offered as S. picta in the Asiatica catalog. Actually, the Hay and Yuzammi paper lists Schismatoglottis picta as a synonym of S. calyptrata, which is one of the most broadly distributed species in the genus. It occurs throughout the Malesia biogeographic region, a very large area encompassing the Malaysian Peninsula, Indonesia, New Guinea and The Phillipines. It is also variable in characters such as leaf coloration and shape. My “S. picta” has attractive heart-shaped leaves measuring about 6.5″, (~16cm) with an inner border area of whitish-green mottled variegation. The habitat description in Hay and Yuzammi mentions “lowland and lower montane rainfores..and forest margin in both wet and well-drained sites”. I potted the two rhizomes that I divided from my plant in regular flower pots using a standard composted potting media, but I will plan to also try some in riparium planters as I get more new divisions.
These are fun plants. It will take a few months to see what happens, but I will return with a new post to report how well they grow for me. There were also an additional three plants in this same order from Aisatica Nursery, so I hope to write another post with observations on them pretty soon.