Author: Bryce Millar, MD
Common Names: N/A
Native Distribution: Central Africa
Aquarium Placement: Background, midground possible in large tanks
Requirements: Medium to high light, CO2 addition helpful
Crinum calamistratum is an aquatic plant from Central Africa that has been available in the hobby for several years now. Records from the holotype specimen collected in 1948 indicate that the plant was taken from the Kumba region of Cameroon. Those waterways were thought to be dry at certain times of the year, but the ability of the plant to survive in an emersed state is doubtful. This is the smallest of the Crinum species usually kept in aquaria, but it is still a fairly sizeable plant.
This Crinum has a unique structure of long and slender, deeply wrinkled, dark-green leaves that can extend up to 4 feet in length. The leaves start off growing upward at a slight angle from the bulb but quickly produce an assortment of curls and loops.
Uses in Aquascaping
For aquascaping purposes, a single full-grown plant can provide a strong focal point. The unique growth pattern and leaf texture provide an interesting visual contrast to typical groupings of stem plants. Despite its slow growth pattern, it requires fairly high light levels and will benefit from CO2 supplementation.
The aquarium location for this plant should be selected with careful consideration in regard to its light requirements and eventual size. It does best when allowed to firmly establish itself. Frequent moves or excessive shading will result in dropped leaves and a poor root system. C. calamistratum is tolerant of mildly brackish water and can do well in both hard and soft water. The leaves are also highly resistant to grazing from herbivorous fish.
Large and healthy plants will eventually produce a number of daughter plants circumferentially around the bulb. After forming three or four leaves, each can be carefully teased away with its own small bulb and root system. Sexual reproduction has also been reported but is much less common.
The flower of this plant (see inset photo) is one of the most beautiful of all true aquatics. Flowering is most easily accomplished in high-light, CO2-enriched systems with relatively soft water. In top form the plant will produce a flower stalk that will rapidly grow from the bulb to the surface in a matter of days. Two or three surprisingly large flowers will rise on slender stalks from a single pod a few inches above the water. These will remain open for about a week. Flowering can be observed as often as every four to six weeks.