Cryptocoryne versteegii Engler

Cryptocoryne versteegii is native to New Guinea. It is a quite rare species for the aquarist, however the plant is imported many times in Europe. It is not known from what place these plants originate. Two localities are known from herbaria, one from Papua (Indonesia) and the other from Papua New Guinea. The plant is described by Engler in 1910 based on material collected by Versteeg in 1907 during the first Lorentz expedition to New Guinea. See the maps below!

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Cultivated specimen of Cryptocoryne versteegii at Copenhagen. Note the even green, fleshy leaves and the wide open limb of the spathe.
coll. HBH1671-8, cult. NJ
photo Jacobsen
From the same collection is this C. versteegii in Copenhagen. Unknown origin.
coll. HBH1671-8, cult. NJ
photo Jacobsen
Plants from Copenhagen, cultivated by Piet van Wijngaarden in the Netherlands. Note the typical bud.
coll. hort., cult. W
photo van Wijngaarden
The same plant as left with an opened limb of the spathe.
coll. hort., cult. W
photo van Wijngaarden
       
Limb of the spathe of C. versteegii. Note the high positioned collar and the rough limb of the spathe.
coll. hort., cult. W
photo van Wijngaarden
Length section of the lower part of the tube, the kettle. No special remarks: it looks like most Cryptocoryne.
coll. hort., cult. W
photo van Wijngaarden
A typical locality of C. versteegii in Papua New Guinea near Kikory. The plants grow in the tidal zone together with a broad leafed form of C. ciliata.
coll. Hansen
photo Bruce Hansen
Plants of C. versteegii collected by Bruce Hansen near Kikory. Unfortunately he did not found any inflorescences.
coll. Hansen
photo Bruce Hansen
       
In the 50's C. versteegii was quite popular in the Netherlands. This specimen flowered submersed (!) in a 50 cm high fish tank of Mr. Engelen (Ramshorst 1957).
coll. hort., cult. Engelen
photo Roggekamp
Engler (1920) published a detailed drawing of C. versteegii based on the type specimen. Note the embryo's with the plumila. De Wit studied a fruiting specimen and described the germinating of the seed. Like C. ciliata the seed thrives plumilate 'roots' probably for anchoring in the tidal environment.
drawing Ike Zewald
A typical leave of C. versteegii with a triangular shape (some C. lingua may have nearly the same shape). The limb of the spathe is rather narrow, in contrast to the picture at top left.
drawing Ike Zewald
       
  The expedition vessel surrounded by Papua boats in the Noord-Fluss. One had to stay there for months. No roads, no communication.
courtesy KIT
A base camp seen from the river.The river Noord-Fluss was later renamed into Lorentz river.
courtesy KIT
Versteeg, who was the physician  and botanist in the Lorentz team, with other members of the expeditions in New Guinea (Lorentz is not on this picture).
courtesy KIT
       
Maps of the three Lorentz expeditions were published in 1919. This map gives an overview of the area.(c.150 kB)
courtesy KIT
Part of the main map with details of the three expeditions. Try to find on the map Zandvoort and Sabang (be aware, this map is c. 320 kB)
courtesy KIT
Type of C. versteegii from the 1907 collection by Versteeg.
coll. Versteeg 1248
National Herbarium Leiden
Known distribution of C. versteegii in Papua (Irian Jaya, Indonesian part of New Guinea) near Sabang (left spot) and in Papua New Guinea (PNG) near Kikory (right spot).
       

The Lorentz expeditions (1907-1914)
Recently, the Museum for the Tropics in Amsterdam (KIT) paid attention to the expeditions and due to Mr. Vink, a lot of photographs of the expeditions were published (pictures originally taken on glass plates).
At the start of the last century, New Guinea was 'terra incognito'. Sailing along the south coast, one could see the perpetual snow covered mountains.  Among others, three expeditions to the Noord river (later renamed to Lorentz river) were organized under Dr. H.A.Lorentz in order to map the country and to climb the mountains. One had to sail up the big river until rapids were encountered or water level was too low and from there one had to go further by canoe or by foot. On the first trip C. versteegii was found along the river near 'Zandvoort and Sabangkamp' as stated on the herbariumlabel, in a hilly area with swamps. Find it on the map!

Cryptocoryne versteegii is a very rare species. In the 50's and 60's the plant was for a short time popular in the Netherlands, probably as the last benefit of the Dutch New Guinea territory. The plant is also known from Papua New Guinea. Womersley collected C. versteegii in 1974 at Kikory. Fortunately, Bruce Hansen from Australia recently found C. versteegii near Kikory, together with C. ciliata. Due to strict import restrictions, the plant is not even popular in Australia.
There are very few plants in cultivation. As far as I know, there are small collections in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Cultivation is a bit problematic, but there are records of exceptional success. Normally the plant grows slowly in a loam - peat mixture.
Though C. versteegii and C. lingua both are restricted to the fresh water tidal zone, both have the even green fleshy leaves and are rather look-alike, they do not seem to be related. C. versteegii has 2n = 34, whether C. lingua has 2n = 36 as chromosomal count.

Updated December 2001

Literature

Engler, A. & Krause, K., 1910. Araceae in Lorentz : Nova Guinea Res.de l'Exped. 8 : 251-252.
Engler, A., 1920. (Cryptocoryne, Lagenandra in) Das Pflanzenreich IV.23.F. Araceae - Aroideae : 232-249, Leipzig.
Hansen, B., 1995. Kikory kaleidoscope. Fishes of Sahul 9 - 3 :417-243.
Jacobsen, N., 1977. Chromosome numbers and taxonomy in Cryptocoryne (Araceae). Bot.Notiser 130 : 71-87.
Jacobsen, N., 1982. Cryptocorynen. Alfred Kernen Verlag, Stuttgart.
Leach, J & P.L. Osborne, 1985. Freshwater plants of Papua New Guinea. The Universtity of Papua New Guinea Press.
Legro, R.A.H., 1967. Raadsels rond Lingua. Het Aquarium 38(1) : 7-9.
Ramshorst, J.D.van, 1957. De bloeiwijze van Cryptocoryne versteegii. Het Aquarium 28(2) : 33-34.
Rataj, K., 1975. Revision of the genus Cryptocoryne Fischer. Studie CSAV, c.3.Praha.
Rataj, K. & Horeman, T.J., 1977. Aquarium Plants. TFH Publ, USA.
Roe, C.D., 1960/1967. A manual of aquarium plants. Shirley Aquatics Ltd, England.
Wit, H.C.D.de, 1959. Het genus Cryptocoryne (2). Het Aquarium 29(7) : 162-163.

Wit, H.C.D.de, 1959. Het genus Cryptocoryne (4). Het Aquarium 29(9) : 194-196.
Wit, H.C.D.de, 1961. Het genus Cryptocoryne (19). Het Aquarium 31(11) : 256-257.
Wit, H.C.D.de, 1990. Aquarienpflanzen, 2. Auflage. Ulmer, Stuttgart