Cryptocoryne lingua growing along
a mud bank in Sarawak.
Lo Shiang Huei (Michael Lo) photographs by the author
It was the year 2004 when
I first discovered a beautiful aquatic
plant growing on the submerged tree
roots in a river at the Bau area of
western Sarawak. At that time I did not know
what it was, as I had never seen such a water
plant before in my lifetime. After searching
for information through the Internet, I found
out that it was a species of aquatic aroid in
the genus Cryptocoryne. In my country of
Malaysia it is also known as “Keladi Air.”
There are more than 20 species of
Cryptocoryne in Malaysia. Most of them are
found in the Sarawak state of East Malaysia,
located in the northwestern side of the third
largest island in the world, Borneo.
The Internet helped me a lot in
communicating with scientists and hobbyists
from overseas to exchange information
and knowledge about how to cultivate and
identify each species of Cryptocoryne that
I found in the rivers of my homeland. The
following are the many kinds of Cryptocoryne
found in the swamps and rivers of Sarawak :
C. auriculata, C. bullosa, C. ciliata, C. cordata
var. grabowskii, C. cordata var. zonata, C.
ferruginea, C. keei, C. lingua, C. longicauda,
C. pallidinervia, C. striolata, C. uenoi, C.
yujii, C. zaidiana, C. x purpurea, and C. sp.
Different species of Cryptocoryne plants
grow in different types of habitats. Most
of them grow in submerged conditions, in
the shady regions of streams, rivers, and
swamps. Some grow in emersed conditions,
near the water’s edge but under the shade of
the forest where the humidity is very high.
There are seven species of Cryptocoryne
found in the freshwater and peat swamps
in Sarawak. Most of them have very large
rounded leaves and they can grow to be
extremely big in size.
In 2004, when I was searching for a
beautiful fish called Sundadanio axelrodi in
a small blackwater river in the peat swamp
forest near Kuching City, I found this species
of Cryptocoryne. This plant is a variety of the
cordata species, and it grows on the peat soil
in submerged conditions. Only a few are
found growing in emersed conditions on the
fallen tree logs near the water’s edge. All of
them grow near the blackwater rivers where
the water’s pH is very low. So far, black
water is the only known locality for this
crypt. It is facing the threat of extinction
because its habitat is next to areas of rapidly
This aroid is another variant of the C.
cordata complex. The spathe has a very
bright yellowish color. It is found in the
swamps and blackwater streams or rivers
near the coastal area of Sarawak. Most
of them grow in submerged conditions,
under the shade of the forest. There is a
patch of this species growing under direct
sunlight in a blackwater river at Seri Aman.
However, most of the Cryptocoryne in that
river died during the land clearing activity
at the riverbank early in 2006. That sudden