Cryptocoryne crispatula Engler var. yunnanensis (H. Li) H.Li & N. Jacobsen

In 1977, Li Heng from the Kunming Botanical Institute described Cryptocoryne yunnanensis from the riverbed of the Mekong in the Yunnan province in southern China. Josef Bogner brought the plant to Europe where it flowered at him. The plant was however regarded as a synonym for C. sinensis according to the type material. Later Niels Jacobsen changed the name into C. crispatula var. sinensis reflecting the close relations in that group. In 2009, Jacobsen found out that the herbarium specimen Morse 221, the type for C. sinensis, actually was a C. crispatula var. crispatula, so a new name was necessary.

In the last decade much more information on Cryptocoryne from the Mekong and other rivers from Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia came available so we do have some overview now but also many more 'new' plants were found, making the picture more complicated.

Click on the picture to get the full image (ca.50 kB)

The Upper Mekong river near Xishuangbanna in the Yunnan province (China). Note the broad river banks at low water.
photo TianZi Biodiversity Centre
A stand of C. crispatula var. yunnanensis on the river banks in the dry season. Note the plastic debris indicating high water level.
photo TianZi Biodiversity Centre
Close up of C. crispatula var. yunnanensis.
photo TianZi Biodiversity Centre
The spathe of C. crispatula var. yunnanensis has a short limb.
photo TianZi Biodiversity Centre
       
Emerged cultivated C. crispatula var. yunnanensis in the Botanical Garden of M√ľnchen (D) originating also from Xishuangbanna (Yunnan).
coll. Bogner
photo Gerlach 
The spathe of C. yunnanensis has a rather short tube and also a short limb of the spathe with a more or less pronounced small tail.
coll. Bogner
photo Gerlach 
The limb of this spathe has regular red dots on a yellow background.
coll. Bogner
photo Gerlach   
The lower part of the inflorescence, the 'kettle'. Note the constriction in the kettle wall half way and the red dots on the inside wall.
coll. Bogner
photo Gerlach 
       
Along the Mekong in N Thailand at low water (see below). Mixed populations of var. crispatula and var. yunnanensis.
photo Idei
Close up of a big patch.
photo Idei
Small patch more close to the riverbed.
coll. Idei TMK-01A
photo Idei
Dug out plants. Note the strong rhizome and (contractile) roots.
coll. Idei TMK-01A
photo Idei
       
Cultivated specimen. Also in cultivation the plants emerge in early spring and go dormant in summer (small terete leaves).
coll. Idei TMK-01A, cult B1148
Spathe with a more pronounced tail.
coll. Idei TMK-01B, cult B1149
This spathe has more irregular purple lines on the limb.
coll. Idei TMK-01A, cult B1148
Opened kettle. Note the massive transverse ´ceiling´ in the kettle.
coll. Idei TMK-01A, cult B1148
       
The Mekong river in northern Laos in the dry season.
photo Sasaki
Big stands of C. crispatula var. yunnanensis on the banks
photo Sasaki
The leaves have an acute top and base and are stiff. Submerged grown leaves may be different.
photo Sasaki
Spathe of C. crispatula var. yunnanensis.
photo Sasaki
       
The limb of the spathe.
photo Sasaki
Length section of the kettle.
photo Sasaki
Fruiting plants. Note the thick rhizome.
photo Sasaki
Manually opened fruit with seeds.
photo Sasaki
       
A tributary of the Mekong river in Laos. On the foreground C. crispatula var. yunnanensis
photo Christensen
Close up of a patch of flowering plants
photo Christensen
Limb of the spathe without a tail
photo Christensen
Limb of the spathe with nearly a full turn twist.
photo Christensen
       
The Mekong river at low level in N. Thailand. The water may rise 10 meter! Several Cryptocoryne species are adapted for that environment.
photo Idei
The Mekong River Commission gives an online report on the water level. Depending on the width of Mekong, the amplitude may vary considerable. Drawing of the type specimen of C. crispatula var. yunnanensis. Note that the leaves are more undulated as in the cultivated specimens.
drawing in H. Li
Distribution of C. crispatula var. yunnanensis in China (Yunnan), northern Thailand and Laos.
       

The climate is quite different from that of the rainforest. During the dry season they grow emerged in the riverbed (low water level) full exposed to the sun with temperatures up 40 °C. Plants may be seasonal in the way that they have a quite different habitus when they are fully submerged in the heavy stream. The available collections are however mostly made in the dry season.

A Cryptocoryne from the Mekong river in Laos, showing the transition from normal leaves (30+ cm) to terete leaves. The latter leaves are 'spike' form and reach from 2 to 10 cm and are circular in cross section. This is apparently an adaptation to the next half year submersed in cloudy, swift running water and should be regarded as a dormant phase.
In cultivation, this starts in June (at me). Some other species fully collapse in a few weeks, resting some small spikes coming up. This species is more gradual (picture date 8 July 2009). In early spring they 'burst out' again.
coll. Idei LK5601

Cryptocoryne crispatula var. yunnanensis is because of its seasonal character not well suited for the normal aquarium. Also it requires a lot of light (full sun!).

For reference to the other plants and the literature see the page on the crispatula group.

Updated August 2010