Re: NANFA-- Aquatic Plant Field Guide-Biofiltration

Jeffrey Fullerton (
Fri, 01 Dec 2000 00:56:28 -0500

> Sorry, Keith, cattails are Typha, coontails are Ceratophyllum. (Rushes are
> Juncus.) Here's a pair of helpful pages for keeping your aquatic plants
> straight.

Another great reference is Common Marsh, Underwater & Floating-leaved Plants of
the US & Canada by Neil Hotchkiss- a wildlife biologist from the Paxtuxent
Wildlife Refuge in Laurel Maryland. I consider this my "Bible" on aquatic plants -
concise text and well done line drawlings of plants. If you are a naturalist or a
pondkeeper or aquarium enthusisast who us into aquatic plants - this is the book
to have! Until someone does this guy better you'll never find a better field guide
to help identify difficult groups like Water Milfoils and a good many of the
sedges rushes and other grassy leaved plants!

> Otherwise, what Keith said about cattails seems to be generally
> correct. (Except most cattails around here are about 4 feet, but that
> could be due to the climate.)

According to Hotchkiss : The Broad-leaf Cattail - Typha latifolia gets about waist
hight to way over your head depending on local conditions. The more nutrients
would make them more robust in stature.
A smaller and more narrow leaf species T. angustifolia is usually shorter than a
The southern species - T. domingensis & a northern coastal form T. glauca - the
Blue Cattail are veritable giants reaching up to twice the height of a man.

These and many other marsh plants are potential candidates for the artificial
marsh to process waste. If an Aquarian style island or land based colony is built
in a tropical region the selection of plants should reflect the local climate.
Sawgrass might be an ideal candidate in the Carribean bioregion. Or possibly an
artificial mangrove swamp. many of the systems I have seen devised to filter both
fish ponds and human waste streams incorporate a variety of species. The one run
by Ocean Arks had a diverse array of both aquatic species and terrestrial plants
growing hydroponically. They even had willow cuttings that rooted thru floating
slabs of styrofoam. Another place used bald cypress trees with roots immersed in
huge tubs!

A mix of terrestrial, wetland and aquatic vegetation may better mimic the process
by which nature purifies water as it travels through the ground to the aquifer and
then thru streams and wetland areas.
And of course the inclusion of fish and other aquatic life as sentinels to alert
us to problems in the system. If they suddenly start to go belly up there is
probably something wrong.

> Cattails are also very good at reducing
> phosphorus; if you were to heat-sterilize the grey/blackwater before
> putting it through the cattail bed, there should be no problem with
> consuming them.

This is alot like the process Marshall Savage described in the Millennial Project
for recycling sewage through the algae that would provide a basic food stuff for
space habitats. Of course it that proved to be too gross for most people there is
always the option of harvesting the algae or trimmings of the marsh plants and
composting them to build humus for a land based ecosystem.


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