Proserpinaca pectinata, A "New" Aquarium Plant From Our Own Back Yard

By

Brad McLane

Proserpinaca pectinata                                            Proserpinaca pectinata

Proserpinaca pectinata is a striking plant with bold reddish, orange coloring and fine, pinnate leaves. Under good growth conditions this plant will exhibit a beautiful reddish orange color and will be a great addition to your aquarium as a single stem or in mass plantings. These characteristics should make Proserpinaca pectinata a popular aquarium plant, so it is surprising that Proserpinaca pectinata has rarely been used in the aquarium trade, in the United States and around the world in general. Its cousin Proserpinaca palustris, on the other hand, has been used in the United States for many years and more recently it has found its way into Europe’s aquarium trade. We believe the reason for the lack of popularity is due to the fact that no commercial aquarium plant nurseries marketed this plant. That has now changed!

Proserpinaca palustris was sold as mermaid weed since the early days of plant collecting in Florida. Abundant populations of Proserpinaca palustris throughout Florida facilitated collection of these wild populations. Proserpinaca palustris was never as common as other wild collected plants like Bacopa, Ludwigia, and Egeria, however it still was in demand and is cultivated in nurseries today.

Proserpinaca pectinata, however, never found its way into the mainstream of wild collected plants. The reason for this was probably due to its habitat preference. Unlike Proserpinaca palustris, which grows in large stands, Proserpinaca pectinata colonizes pinewood ponds or shallow depressions and typically doesn’t grow in large enough colonies to lend it to wild collecting.

Proserpinaca pectinata is in the water milfoil family, Haloragaceae. The family includes the genus Proserpinaca and the genus Myriophyllum. The difference between the genera is easily determined. Proserpinaca has alternate leaves and the genus Myriophyllum has opposite or whorled leaves. The species epithet derives from the Latin “pect(in)” meaning “a comb” and can be easily understood after looking at the leaves of the plant. Godfrey and Wooten state that Proserpinaca pectinata colonizes North America from Maine south to Florida and west to Texas.

The potential of Proserpinaca pectinata for aquarium use is very interesting. It is decorative, colorful, hardy and undemanding. Proserpinaca pectinata’s decorative side can be seen in its fine, pinnate leaf structure and great color. Unlike many aquatic plants, the leaves remain pinnate while in its emerged state adding to its charm. The color of this plant is affected by the amount of light it receives similar to many other plants. Under moderate to high light it displays a splendid reddish orange hue that is not seen in many, if any, other plants in the trade. Under lower lighting it will display a greenish leaf color. Proserpinaca pectinata is a hardy plant growing a stronger, woodier stem than most bunch plants that helps it to stay anchored in the substrate. It requires a moderate amount of fertilizer, and when it outgrows the water depth it can simply be cut and replanted like most other stem plants. It grows well emerged thus lending itself to other possibilities such as terrariums or even as a marginal plant around a backyard pond.

Florida Aquatic Nurseries grows Proserpinaca pectinata in the submersed form in our large production tanks like most other stem plants. Cuttings are taken and sold as bunches. This allows us to keep the rootstock in the soil from which new stems grow. The production tanks can be harvested about once a month. We also produce Proserpinaca pectinata in the emersed form and plan to have it in potted production in the near future.

Hobbyist world wide are constantly on the lookout for new and interesting plants to experiment with in the aquarium. Sometimes we forget to look right in our own backyard. This plant, while not really new, will certainly be new and interesting to many Hobbyists in the United States and around the globe.

 

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Proserpinaca pectinata   Proserpinaca pectinata leaves   Proserpinaca pectinata in flower
 
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