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Re: Flowering echinodorus

Vincent Chye wrote:

> I've just read Roger Miller's post on growing echinodorus plants from seed.
> What a coincidence! My sword plant (dont know the species, heart shaped
> leaves - cordiflorus??) has been growing emersed out of my tank for a few
> months now, about 15 leaves that are much larger than the submersed ones.

It might be cordifolius, but there are a number of Echinodorus with
about the same shape of emersed leaf.  If you can find a key to the
genus, then with a flower in hand you should be able to get a definitive
identification.  There's a key in Rataj and Horeman.  Does anyone know
if there are other keys available?

> Today along with another leaf, a spike that i take to be a flower spike came
> right out of the water too. How do I fertilise the flower so that i can get
> seeds? What do I do then?

If it behaves like mine, then the flower spike will grow to 3-4 feet
long, with nodes at varying intervals.  Flower buds will arise at the
nodes.  Plantlets develop at the nodes after the flowers bloom. 
Flowering and plantlet development start at the bottom of the spike and
work their way up. It takes weeks (and weeks) for a spike to play out. 
The plant may develop two or more spikes at the same time.

> Roger, any tips on what I should do?

If you have cats it's a good idea to discourage them from playing with
the spikes.
I just let nature take it's course.  The flowers were self-fertile and
didn't need any intervention on my part to get pollinated.  Not all
Echinodorus are self-fertile, so your results may vary.  I let the
developing seed heads stay on the plant until they were brown and dried,
then removed the seeds by rubbing the heads between my fingers.  The
plantlets develop fairly slowly, but after a while (when the plant
leaves were over 4" long) they can be easily detached from the spike. 
They have no roots.  I planted mine in a shallow tray with a couple
inches of water over a rich substrate, with their leaves out of water. 
They developed roots quickly.  From there I transferred the rooted
plants to an aquarium and grew them out under water.  I sold them to my
LFS after they got too big for the grow-out tank.

If you detach the plantlets too early they develop rather slowly, so
it's a good idea to leave them on the spike as long as you can.  I think
I ended up selling about 1/3 of the plantlets that I harvested last
summer;  the other 2/3 mostly just failed to thrive and disappeared in
the grow-out tank or developed slowly enough that I got bored with them
and threw them out to clear space for other things.

Alternatives would be to either submerse the entire spike once it was
done blooming then pull off the plantlets after they develop roots, or
to detach the plantlets and move them directly to submersed growth.  The
first option will be fairly unattractive, but the success rate may prove
higher than my approach.  The second option is easier than my approach
but I suspect the success rate will be worse.

I'd love to hear other people's experiences with propogating the largers
sword plants.  Hopefully someone else will chime in.  Up to now I'm a
little surprised by what appears to be a lack of experience among the
list members.

Roger Miller