Extreme Aquatics: Size and Diversity
among Wetland Species of Aroids [Araceae]
by Deni Bown
This was one of the presentations which appealed to me straight
away. The Glasshouses I look after in Edinburgh contain a vast
amount of plants in the family Araceae, including Anthurium,
Spathiphyllum, Xanthosoma, Peltandra and Pistia
to name only a few. I had of course heard of Deni Bown having
owned her book "Aroids - Plants of the Arum Family"
for many years.
It was a well presented, in-depth and informative presentation
covering three main topics;
1. Taxa well-established in cultivation.
2. New or little-known species with intriguing adaptations to
3. Invasive species.
Within these topics ecology and ethno-botanical uses were discussed,
and the attendees were left with details of special interest
groups which they could contact. I will certainly be looking
to add to the variety of the aroids we display in our ponds as
this will enhance the beauty of our aquatic displays particularly
in the winter when the ponds can look a bit empty.
Study on Lotus Production and Marketing
by Thanomnuan Srihakulang
and Urasa Buatama
This was a presentation based on a survey of local lotus (Nelumbo)
farmers in the rural area surrounding Bangkok and highlighted
the benefits of this type agriculture over more traditional crops
such as rice (Oryza) and maize (Zea). The farmers
fell into two groups.
1. Those farming constructed lotus ponds.
2. Those farming natural freshwater swamp.
Almost the entire lotus is of commercial value.
1. The flowers are used in the cut flower industry and most of
the flowers are used in Buddhist religious ceremonies. The lotus
flowers all year although the yield does drop considerably in
the cool season (November - February)
2. The seeds are eaten widely either fresh or dried. Normally
the embryo is removed as it can have a bitter taste but the embryos
are dried separately and used for medicinal purposes, usually
taken in tea as a general tonic.
3. The rhizomes are eaten cooked and sliced. They are high in
starch content and in some areas are the staple diet, being more
widely eaten than rice.
4. The stamens are also harvested for their medicinal qualities
and are specifically used to treat male fertility problems.
5. The leaves are also collected and dried, sold as a versatile
The farmers decide which part of the plant they specifically
want to harvest and choose a cultivar which has been developed
for that purpose. For example there is a cultivar that produces
a large yield of rhizomes and will produce 2-3 crops a year.
Another cultivar can be grown which produces many beautiful flowers
all year round.
The authors of this report are now in consultation with the
Thai Agriculture Ministry and have high hopes of seeing a dramatic
rise in lotus farming in southern Thailand, and good luck to
Lotus seed pods for sale
Lotus: An Alternative Multipurpose
Crop for the Southeastern U.S.A.
by Warner Orozco-Obando
Warner was the person I shared a room with, so I was particularly
keen to hear this presentation. He is currently doing this research
as part of his PhD at Auburn University in Alabama and is working
alongside the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural
Sociology, and of course the local farmers.
The US Black Belt region lies within the south's Gulf coastal
plain. It got this name in the 1820's because of its rich dark
soil which was particularly suited to growing cotton (Gossypium
sp.) For the next 120 years the area flourished and became one
of the richest and politically powerful regions in the US.
Due to terrible soil erosion problems and the invasion of
the Boll Weevil (Anthomus grandis), by the 1950's the
cotton industry collapsed. When this was coupled with the failure
of the farmers to diversify and the movement of large numbers
of the population to the cities, the area became one of the poorest
in the US.
Today the region supports a fairly extensive aquaculture industry
utilising 25,000 acres of water, but the area has the potential
to use ten times this acreage if the small farmers can be encouraged
to try double-cropping, by using their fish ponds to grow vegetables
This is where the lotus comes in; it is an easy-to-grow sturdy
aquatic which can be grown as an ornamental or a vegetable. It
also has huge potential because of its enormous biomass (16 tons/acre),
which could be used as a sink for pesticides and nutrient residues
and possibly even as a future fuel.
What they are currently doing at Auburn University is evaluating
the growth and development of different varieties to find the
best cultivars for growing in the region. The next logical step
is for them to set up some commercial trials. Warner with some
colleagues has been in discussion with local businessmen and
this looks like it could be a possibility for next year. Maybe
in the not too distant future the area could have the "sacred
lotus" to thank for an upturn in its fortunes.
Warners' drive, optimism and general enthusiasm were just
so infectious that this talk was always going to be a huge success
and no one was let down.