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  Petiole Shortening
From: ted.held at us.henkel.com (ted.held at us.henkel.com) on 2008.04.09 at 06:57:38(17343)
Dear Wise Ones,

A phenomenon has come to my attention by way of Jim Langhammer, who used
to be a contributor to this list. He is a trained botanist and life-long
professional fish and reptile keeper and expert. He is well known in the
Detroit area (USA) since he is the retired curator of reptiles at our zoo.
The reason I point out this biographical material is to emphasize that he
is a close observer of the natural world and one whose observations are to
be taken seriously.

Mr. Langhammer has an aquarium of 70 gallons capacity in which he has a
culture of Cryptocoryne of the cordata complex. This aquarium has been
maintained almost undisturbed for a decade or two with this planting and
his results have been remarkable. His plants grow luxuriously with total
leaf lengths of around 18 inches (46 cm) at maturity, being perhaps
two-thirds petiole length and the balance leaf blade. The leaves are a
rich color and apparently in the peak of health. Water is changed two or
more times per week. The substrate gets no fertilization other than "mulm"
from fish wastes. Over the years illumination has been provided by a
single cool-white fluorescent bulb, 24-hours a day.

As it happened, a few months back he decided to switch out the cool-white
fluorescent with a gro-light type with a different temperature profile.
The reason for the change was to enhance the appearance of some characin
fishes in the tank, which was successful.

But over the next few weeks after the bulb switch the plants experienced a
dramatic contraction in the petiole length. The leaf blade dimensions did
not seem to change much, but the overall leaf length is now less than
about 10 inches (25 cm). Old leaves have not died and this is not simply
the emergence of new leaves adapted to a new illumination regime. The
petioles have contracted on the order of 50%, presumably because of a
shift in the intensity or color temperature of the illumination. The
petioles are not bent or otherwise distorted; just shorter.

The growth habit of the leaves, it should be noted, has changed as well.
Under the old regime the leaves tended to strive upward, as if seeking
light. With the new light they tend more toward a horizontal leaf blade
orientation. This behavior could indicate a trigger associated with light

The same phenomenon was reported earlier by another Crypt fancier who had
received offshoots from the Langhammer clone. But, at that time, we
attributed the episode to the usual adjustment problems associated with
radical change in culture and we did not have the controlled observation
that we have in this case. The other grower was not certain that the
leaves were not just new growth, for example.

We see references to plant contractile activities in certain roots
(dandelions, daffodils) that serve to pull bulbs or crowns into the soil,
and in tendrils, which coil and contract to pull vining plants like
cucumbers toward supporting structures.

Has anyone on the list read about or observed such contractile behavior in
Aroids, especially in leaves? We wonder, naturally, if a return to the old
illumination regime would result in reversal. We wonder what possible
physical mechanism could account for shortening on this scale.

And, I might add, we wonder if we are crazy. If you think I'm crazy I
won't be offended. Others have made that inference in the past.

Any ideas?


From: abri1973 at wp.pl (Marek Argent) on 2008.04.09 at 17:46:48(17355)

I think plants shouldn't be lightened 24 hrs a day, The photosynthesis has 2 phases. During days plants accumulate the solar energy and at nights they produce new biomass.


From: ted.held at us.henkel.com (ted.held at us.henkel.com) on 2008.04.10 at 05:28:05(17365)

Look at the history: Mr. Langhammer had grown these plants extremely
successfully for 20 years under this regimen. I don't do it that way
myself, but it obviously was not detrimental in his case.

Any ideas about the petiole shortening?


From: ted.held at us.henkel.com (ted.held at us.henkel.com) on 2008.04.10 at 09:22:01(17366)

I forwarded your comments on to Jim and was glad to find you think, as I
do, that the effect might be reversible. That would be an elegant
experiment that would prove that this is a physical characteristic of the

As far as the normal shortening (or lengthening) of petioles and
internodes and such in response to light, my feeling is that this applies
to new growth. Does anyone know otherwise? This is a different case than
that, and it has me puzzled.


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