NANFA-- Pond Plants:Spatterdocks & Milfoils

Jeffrey Fullerton (
Wed, 26 Jul 2000 11:23:19 -0400

Native Fish
& Pond Enthusiasts

I continure to delve into the culture of Nuphars and Milfoils. In
we have 4 species of spatterdock - the largest is the "Southern
Nuphar advena which gets quite large and puts leaves high above the
water as
the season progresses. I used to have this one for years but never liked
gargantuan habit so I replaced it with the Japanese Spatterdock - N.

Then there's the Bullhead or Cow Lily - Nuphar variegatum which is still
rather large plant but it's pads tend to remain floating more so then N.

advena. The Lesser Cow Lily - N. rubrodiscum is even smaller and
smallest of
all is the Least Pond Lily N. microphyllum. The microphyllum species is
actually rare in PA - confined to the Pocono region. I know now that
I've seen it in New Jersey. I recently purchased sprouted roostock ends
from the J&J Tranzplant Nursery - Wild Rose Wisconsin which propagates
this , along with four other native Nuphar species.

Currently I am growing N. rubrodiscum, microphyllum , Japonicum and the
Cape Fear spatterdock - N. sagittifolium! The latter is among my
favorites and also a favorite of aquarists who often use this plant and
sometimes N. japonicum as a centerpeice in their tanks. Spatterdocks can
be a bit tricky to grow in tanks, but easier to grow in a tub of soil in
a pond. Outdoors the Cape Fear spatterdock undergoes a dramatic
transformation putting up elongated floating leaves up to a foot or more
in lenght. That's big by aquarium standards but small in a pond. This
species , like microphyllum is ideal for small ponds or even a large tub

All spatterdocks put up a flush of yellow cup-like blooms in late spring
- May to early June here in PA and intermittantly through the summer.
The Japanese species is changable going from buttercup yellow to orange
to reddish as it ages.

Last week I sent for a couple pygmy white water lilies - Nymphea
tetragona. I
am hoping I can get them to establish in my pond. The last time I lost
plant from Perry's - the source of my Cape Fear and Japanese
I also found a website with plants of Nuphar japonicum growing in a
nature perserve in their native Japan. It looked like the kind of place
that alot of NANFA people would love to drag a net thru. Of course it
would not be allowed.

Yesterday I got some film in my camera to photograph three species that
are now
in spike.
I have no difficulty distinguishing between the Whorled Milfoil - M.
verticilliatum and Variable Milfoil - M heterophyllum. The latter has
thicker stems and a more greenish
cast and thick linear leaves on the bloom spike above water.
Verticilliatum has
longer foliage with an olive cast and often reddish stems and the above
leaves are more elongated and prickly looking.

Another species on hand - a pot full that I got from Dan Quackenbush (a
plant dealer from GA) may be M. pinnatum- (Eastern Milfoil) after all! I
though the material in the trade under that name was M. heterophyllum
but the bloom spikes are nothing like it - they
have small out of water leaves like vericilliatum but smaller but the
underwater foliage is less dense than either species.
It's like WOW! I've got another one.
Think I will purchase some more under that name via mail order and grow
it to see what I get.

Mixed in with another pot of 'pinnatum' is some red stemmed stuff
similar to M. vericilliatum but with smaller features which may turn out
to be the Southern Milfoil M. laxum. It was supposed to be M
heterophyllum but I will have to wait for it to bloom to find out for
sure. If it turns out to be M. laxum then I will have a real treasure
since it's said to be getting rare in its range.

Last and least I have some newly planted pots of Low Milfoil - M.
humile grown from stranded bits found on a lake shore in New Jersey.
This plant I've tried and failed with before, but now that I have barley
straw in place to control algae, it seems to be off to a better start.
M. humile defintely lives up to its name the way young plants sprawl
over the bottom and also forming carpets of terrestrial growth at the
water's edge during the summer when bits and peices get stranded there.
Many milfoil species do this and it is a good way to obtain specimens
for the pond or aquarium. I start them off in pots of moist sandy loam
with a small amount of peat added for acid loving species. Then I set
the pot so the top is even with the water level- just enough to barely
emerse the little plants and gradually submerge and move it to greater
depths as the plants grow longer.

Once established, water milfoils make awesome pond plants. They are also
wonderful cover and spawning media for egg scattering fishes like
goldfish , shiners and killies. The key to success is having species
that are happy with your water conditions (most of the ones I grow do
well in soft acidic waters) - M. verticilliatum and heterophyllum
probably do well over a wide range of pH. Of course algae control is
paramount- especially for the smaller more delicate species which are
easily smothered by epiphytic algae. Getting the pond treated with
barley straw will inhibit agal growth but will not kill existing algae
so it may be necessary to cut milfoils back to force new clean growth
that will rejuvinate them. Also the trimmings can be started in new pots
which are kept moist and set into a shady area until terrestrial growth
is established- then introduced to the pond.

Because of their potentially invasive nature, Milfoils and other aquatic
plants must never be introduced or allowed to escape into public waters.
The exotic Eurasian Milfoil - M. spicatum should not be collected or
cultivated at all. In many states it is illegal to import or transport
within the state.


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