The genus Bucephalandra – Part 2 – Ecology
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Bucephalandra leaves

The genus Bucephalandra – Part 2 – Ecology

Bucephalandra as previously said in the introduction part is a small flowering plant endemic of Borneo. Borneo has a tropical climate which lead to relative stable temperatures year round, with an average annual temperature of 28°C and high level of moisture.  There are two seasons that are determined by the amount of rainfall: the rainy season and the “dry” season.

Most Bucephalandra species are obligate rheophytes this mean that they grow  on running water such as stream or riverside rocks and some of them are facultative rheophytes like Bucephalandra kishii.

In their natural habitat they are recurrently found growing together with mosses, on rock along the edge of water, forming often a thick carpet, thanks to their powerful roots, which allow the plants to withstand even the power of strong currents that might occur during the rainy season.

bucephalandra and mosses on rock

Bucephalandra and mosses growing togheter on a rock along the water edge – Picture of Michael Lo

What is often misunderstood is the fact that Bucephalandra grow generally very close to water but they aren’t water plant, as the waterline is very close to the plants, during the rainy season water level in river and streams rise flooding  the plants habitat. In order to survive these plants are able to adapt to live underwater for a short amount of time acquiring a more delicate and colorful leaf structure.

Partially or short term full underwater grow is allowed by the presence of stomata (tiny opening that is used for gas exchange) on both upper and under surface of leaves, that’s also the reason why in submerged conditions many little shiny spot (tiny bubble of gas) are visible on the leaf surface.

Bucephalandra leaves

Tiny bubble of gas on submerged Bucephalandra leaves

Most Bucephalandra are found on exposed rock in lowland to middle elevation (less than 400 m over the sea) perhumid  and ever wet broadleaf tropical forest, only very few species grow in highlands. As Bucephalandra are associated with a specific geology, single species are mostly found in restricted area, leading to a high rate of variability between different species and/or within the same species.

Hei, wait a minute, interesting information but you didn’t say if they grow in alkaline or acidic substrate!!
Yes, I know, but was on purpose, because some Bucephalandra grow on granitic rock or other acidic substrate and other on alkaline substrate such as limestone.

As far as is known, these plants are found predominantly in the Indonesian province of Kalimantan, but they were found also in smaller number in Malaysian province of Sarawak and Sabah. The fact that only a few number of plant has been collected in the north of island, is probably due to the fact that large portions of the forest have been destroyed by fire to make way for palm oil culture and part of the regions are difficult to access, making hard to find still intact Bucephalandra habitats. As result more and more species of Bucephalandra are going to be discovered as previously hidden parts of the Island will be explored.

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