Killi Shrimp Plant species Enclycloaquaria CoF Invert Taxa

Aqua-Planta 16(1): 1-33, 1991

The narrow leaved Cryptocoryne of Mainland Asia

Niels Jacobsen

Cryptocoryne crispulata var. sinensis

First published as "The Cryptocoryne albida group of mainland Asia (Araceae)" by Neils Jacobsen in 1980.
Revised by Jacobsen in 1991, published in German as "Die schmalblattrigen Cryptocorynen des asiatischen Festlandes".
Translated to English and technical corrections and additions by Jan Bastmeijer.
HTML version by Richard Sexton.
-- Richard Sexton, Jan 09


... The following account presents an abbreviated version of what was contained in the article 10 years ago, supplemented by the additional information obtained since then. The intervening time has also shown a need to be able to recognize some of the intraspecific variation found within the polymorphic species C. crispatula... (...more)


Discussion of the morphology and history of the taxonomy of the thin leaved Cryptocornes from mainland Asia. (...more)


The taxa in the C. albida group are aquatic or amphibious herbs with subterranean rhizomes that have a rosette of leaves. Vegetative propagation takes place by means of subterranean runners or by division or bud sprouting from the rhizome.


The leaves are linear, strap shaped or lanceolate, green to brown, smooth to bullate (Figs. 7, 18). The length varies from 10 to 70 cm and the width from 0.2 to 4 cm. In the broader leaves there are conspicuous lateral veins parallel to the midrib. In narrower leaves the midrib is a main part of the leaf blade. The margin of the blade is entire to denticulate. In the monsoon season, C. retrospiralis has short, c. 15 cm long, terete leaves (Figs. 7B, 42), a feature otherwise known only from a few collections of C. crispatula, where they are 2-4 cm long.


The spadix (Fig. 8) contains, as usual for Cryptocoryne, female flowers at the basis with vertical to almost horizontal stigmas. The olfactory bodies are shortly club-shaped and more or less lobed at the top. The male flowers at the top have a strongly mammillose surface. The kettle is constricted on the inside above the middle. The valve that closes the kettle is red spotted, as is the upper part of the inside kettle wall. The inside of the tube is also spotted, often showing a transition between the markings in the kettle and those on the limb of the spathe. The upper part of the inner side of the kettle wall has more or less circular depressions, alveoli, of unknown significance, but also found in other species, e.g. the C. beckettii group from Ceylon.

The limb of the spathe varies in length from 1 to 6 cm, and is more or less spirally twisted, sometimes becoming uncoiled (Figs. 8, 9, 10). The limb of the spathe is whitish to yellowish to greenish to grayish grounded. It is also so that the colour of the limb varies during flowering, being darker and more intense just after opening, and on the second and third day begins to fade. The markings on the limb of the spathe vary in form from small to large spots, from short, thin streaks to long, thick, irregular lines. The density of these markings varies from almost complete covering of the limb to nearly missing. Their colour varies from brown to red purple. A margin on the limb of the same colour as the markings may be present or absent. The shape and colour of the markings are characteristic for each species.


All three species flower from (October-) December to February, during the dry season. They are inhabitants of small or larger rivers and streams where they are submerged part of the year. At falling waters the long tube of the spathe ensures that the opening of the spathe reaches up above the water surface. Later on in the season, many of the plants near and on the river banks are completely emerse. After pollination, the fruit increases in size for the first few months and stays (mostly) hidden beneath the surface of the soil for about 3/4 of a year. At maturity the peduncle elongates 3 to 10 cm within about a week, the syncarpium rises above the surface of the soil, opens, and disperses the seeds (Fig. 33). The seeds are coated with a thin layer of a waxy appearance, which makes them float for a short time if liberated in water. This mechanism may serve to disperse the seeds only at falling waters, so that they do not travel too far, and may ensure that they are distributed below and near "normal" high water level.

Plants with fruit collected at Phu Khieo and Ban Nang Yon (Note: Misspelled: Ban Wangyon, 1991) (Thailand) in late February 1977 dispensed their seeds in November-December the same year under cultivation in Copenhagen.


During a stay in Thailand in February 1977, I had the opportunity to study different Cryptocoryne populations. Three localities will be considered:

    1. Mueak Lek (Fig. 11), c. 150 km NNE of Bangkok. Alt. c. 200 m. The 6-8 m wide river runs...

    2. Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, c. 350 km NNE of Bangkok. Alt. c. 700 m. The river, Huae Mae Chem, is 8-10 m broad, mostly filled with rather large, round stones and rocks...

    3. In the Thai part of the Malay peninsula, south of Ranong, several localities with C. albida were visited, but the population at Ban Nang Yon (Note: Misspelled: Ban Wangyon, 1991), c. 100 km S of Ranong (Figs. 1, 22, 23, 24)... (...more)


Key to the species of the Cryptocoryne albida group: C. albida, C. crispulata and C. retrospiralis

Key to the species of the C. albida group:

1. Limb rarely exceeding 2.5 cm in length, more or less recurved (to spirally twisted, with a short appendage). Opening of the limb usually distinctly dilatated. Markings on the limb irregular, line-like to spotted, brownish (to reddish). Leaves green to brown, 10-30 cm long, smooth, neither undulate nor denticulate at the margin.C. albida
1.Limb usually more than 3 cm long, more or less regularly spirally twisted. Opening of the limb of the spathe usually not broadly dilatated. Markings on the limb more or less regular, line-like and purple or larger red spots. Leaves 10-70 cm long, smooth to undulate to bullate or with denticulate margins 2
2.Limb more or less open-spirally twisted, sometimes uncoiled. Markings on the limb irregular, line-like (to circular), purple. Leaves green to brown, smooth to undulate to bullate or with a denticulate margin, 10-70 cm long C. crispatula
2.Limb of the spathe usually more or less spirally twisted. Markings on the limb larger, more or less circular, reddish. Leaves green to brownish, smooth to somewhat undulate, 10-40 cm long C. retrospiralis


Cryptocoryne albida Parker.

Valid species. Green and brown forms exist... (...more)


C. crispatula Engler

Valid and extremely varied species. Many subspecies. A number of what were previously species have been made varieties of C. crispulata. The largest (balansae) and smallest (tonkinensis) members of this group are just subspecies of this one extremely successful species... (...more)


Key to the C. crispatula Engler complex

1.Leaves bullate or undulate2
1.Leaves smooth4
2.Leaves 1 - 4 cm broad, bullatevar. balansae
2.Leaves narrower, 0.2 - 1.2 cm broad, undulate3
3.Leaves 0.2 - 0.4 cm broadvar. tonkinensis
3.Leaves 0.6 - 1.2 cm broadvar. flaccidifolia
4.Leaves rather stiff, 10 - 15 (-20) cm long, 0.8 - 1.5 cm broadvar. sinensis
4.Leaves longer and/or narrower5
5.Leaves very narrow, 0.2 - 0.4 cm broad, 20 (-30) cm long, very flaccidvar. tonkinensis
5.Leaves 0.6 - 1.2 cm broad, 15 - 50 cm long, rather stiff or flaccid6
6.Leaves rather stiff, 15 - 40 cm long, margin smooth or denticulatevar. crispatula
6.Leaves flaccid, 20 - 50 cm long, margin smoothvar. flaccidifolia


Valid subspecies. Description of Cryptocoryne crispatula Engl. var. flaccidifolia Jacobsen, nov. var. wherein this form is made a subspecies of crispulata. This is the usual "tonkinensis" of the trade... (...more)


C. crispatula Engl. var. balansae (Gagnep.) Jacobsen, stat. et comb. nov.

Valid subspecies. Description of Cryptocoryne crispatula Engl. var. balansae (Gagnep.) Jacobsen, stat. et comb. nov., wherein C. balansae is made a subpecies of C. crispulata.

This is the most spectacular and largest of the group. Small and large, red and green forms of the plant exist... (...more)


C. crispatula Engl. var. sinensis (Merr.) Jacobsen, stat. et comb. nov.

Valid subspecies. The Chinese form of crispulata is placed in sinensis. (...more)


C. crispatula Engl. var. tonkinensis (Gagnep.) Jacobsen, stat. et comb. nov.

Valid subspecies. The Vietnamese form is placed in tonkinensis (...more)


Cryptocoryne retrospiralis (Roxburgh) Kunth

Valid species. Identity never much in dispute. (...more)


Valid subspecies. Description of Cryptocoryne crispatula Engl. var. crispatula... (...more)

Copyright 2022 Richard J. Sexton
Aquatic Aroids