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PROSERPINACA PALUSTRIS FROM CUBA

Hardiness: Moderate
Light Needs: Medium
Plant Structure: Stem
Family: Haloragaceae
Genus: Proserpinaca
Region: Americas
Location: Americas
Size: Stem width: 3-5cm (1-2 in)
Growth Rate: Medium
Can Be Grown Emersed: Yes

Description:

Proserpinaca palustris, also known as mermaid weed, can be found growing throughout the southeastern United States and Latin America in humid soils, ditches, ponds, streams, and marshes. Due to its wide range, this species also exhibits considerable geographic variation; the form with a wider central portion of the leaf sold by Danish plant nursery Tropica is from Cuba. P. palustris has only recently begun to receive international recognition as a desirable aquarium plant, although it has been cultivated in U.S. hobbyist tanks for over a decade. Although it is by no means common in the U.S. trade, P. palustris can be obtained through trading with the many hobbyists who grow it.

This herbaceous plant isn't too difficult to grow, although it does require a lengthy period to transition from the saw-toothed, green emersed form to the finely-toothed, orange-red submersed form. Moderate to intense lighting (2wpg or more) is necessary for the health and coloration of this species; CO2 injection is highly recommended to achieve the full potential of this plant. Low NO3 (5-10ppm) and high PO4 (1.5-2ppm) values encourage large, compact, deep orange-red growth. If nitrates are kept higher, the plant will exhibit lighter orange to green coloration. Iron fertilization is also critical, since a deficiency causes coloration to become washed out and dull.

P. palustris grows at a moderate to slow pace, producing very few side shoots along the length of the vertical stem. When pruning is necessary, replant the upper portions and discard the bottom portions. For propagation, the plant can be encouraged to produce side shoots by cutting off upper portions and leaving the rooted, bottom portions in place. These stumps will produce one or more side shoots in a couple of days. Once they are several inches long, they can be removed and replanted in the substrate to create new plants.

This red and orange hued species is an excellent choice for the smaller aquascape because of its small size and moderate growth rate. It is best used as a red accent in the midground to background, standing out effectively due to its bright color and unique leaf texture.

Photo #1 Submersed: US and International Copyright 2004 by Loh Koah Fong All Rights Reserved.

Photo #2 Submersed: US and International Copyright 2004 by Oliver Knott All Rights Reserved.

Photo #3 Submersed: US and International Copyright 2005 by James Hoftiezer All Rights Reserved.

Photo #4 Emersed with flowers and fruit: US and International Copyright 2006 by Tim Gross