Ludwigia Palustris Beginner's Guide

Published on May 28, 2019
Ludwigia Palustris Beginner's Guide

One more collection to our best red aquarium plants, Ludwigia palustris is a typical herbaceous plant that can catch one's attention when beautifully decorated in an aquarium. It is a versatile type of stem plant that is not too demanding, not fragile, and never even delicate to handle.

Undeniably a mainstay in the aquascape trade, whether in submersed or emersed state, this plant appears to be one of the few favorite florae for the new hobbyists. The cosmopolitan-origin species can practically grow across the globe in any season of the year.

Origin of the Name

This aquatic herb species epithet Palustris is a Latin word for "of the marsh" indicating its typical habitat. As the name Ludwigia palustris implies, it is more adaptable to palustrine or swampy areas.

Common Names

  • Marsh Purslane
  • Hampshire-purslane
  • Marsh seedbox
  • Common water-primrose
  • Water purslane
  • False loostrife

Scientific Information

  • Kingdom: Plantae (Plant)
  • Division: Magnoliophyte (Flowering plant)
  • Class: Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledon)
  • Sub-class: Rosidae
  • Order: Myrtales
  • Family: Onagraceae (evening-primrose family}
  • Genus: Ludwigia L. (primrose willow)
  • Species: Ludwigia palustris (L.) Elliott (marsh seedbox)

Characteristics of Ludwigia palustris

Submersed Appearance

When you find the plant under the water, the sprawling stems and leaves thrive in the ground irregularly. When the water is shallow, the water purslane creeps ascendingly reaching the topmost with its leaves and upper stems poking above the water surface.

This perennial plant can grow from 3-12 inches long in the submersed state. The smooth and succulent stems of this herb are colored light green to deep red.

Each leaf is sized 1½ inches long and has a width of ¾ inches. The narrow oval-shaped leaves taper at the tip and grow opposite each other.

Emersed Appearance

This aquatic plant can also grow emersed, and is not at all delicate for its fleshy tissues can conserve moisture.

The leaves of this aquatic herb come in alternating pairs along its semi-tilted stem. Depending on the tank’s condition, the leaves appear to be golden, turning orange until it reaches its deep red coloration.

Its emersed form on the shallow water of some inches deep creates more vibrant shades of red, especially when exposed to the sun.

Growth and Cultivation

This hardy plant has prostrate stems that frequently root out at the nodes. Flowering usually occurs in the middle of summer until autumn. Its flowers grow not from stalks but directly from the stem, one on each leaf axil.

A short green tube-like calyx characterizes each flower. The calyx is visible with four stamens, four ovate teeth and a short style found above its soon-to-develop ovary.

There are no petals to recognize; otherwise, the presence of it comes too small and unrecognizable. Also, some barely seen flowers are presumed self-fertile.

A seed capsule develops in the calyx. It measures about ¼ inches long, is flat-topped, and has four angles. Each seed capsule contains four chambers with plenty of tiny seeds.

You may not notice the presence of tiny flowers of water purslane until mid-summer. Likewise, the growth of some baby plants is gradually emerging, blooming and forming little seedpods due to self-pollination or cross-pollination caused about by abandoning insects.

The root growth is fibrous, sturdy, and shallow. It forms rootlets that we can find nearer the axis of the lower part of the leaves.

Range and Distribution

Ludwigia palustris is native to Pacific Northwest (Eurasian) countries and North America. Its wide range includes the USA, specifically in the States of Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire.

Because it thrives aggressively in its natural habitat, this stem plant is also widespread in Africa, South America and even in Greenland. This particular species of plant is all season-friendly that is why it became prevalent nearly throughout the world (except Australasia).

Where are marsh seedbox commonly found?

  • Shores
  • Lakes
  • swamps
  • riverine
  • springs
  • seeps
  • pond's muddy borders
  • floodplain
  • ditches
  • river sandbars
  • wetland margins

and other anthropogenic areas

Similar Plant Species

Watson willow Herb (Epilobium ciliatum) and Veronica (Veronican Americana) have reddish to purple petals and are borne on its stalks.

Veronican Americana has similarities with Ludwigia palustris, but you can easily distinguish one from the other through its flowers.  It has clusters of 7 to 10mm-wide violet flowers.

To further differentiate, the leaves of Epilobium ciliatum and Veronican Americana are linear and serrated, respectively.

Growth Requirements

Like any other plant needing sunlight, the right illumination for water purslane will result in a much better coloration and healthy growth. It is not particular with the temperature, but like most of all Ludwigia species, it is best to keep it warm and at a 6.0-7.0 pH level.

This aquatic plant appreciates macronutrient fertilizers, especially phosphate and nitrate. Infusion of CO2 and other micronutrients can enhance both its growth and coloration. At any rate, the plant can do without these for it is self-sustaining and can adapt from warmest to coldest climate.

Pruning and Propagation

ludwigia palustris care

Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The flowering period for marsh seedbox is during summer and fall. Flowering and reproduction also take place within these seasons.

The herb is dependent on your light preference when cultivated in your tank. If grown in its natural habitat, it needs full sun to undergo photosynthesis.

The foliage also grows on light shade provided of wet or moist conditions. Like other Ludwigia and Rotala species, this plant also requires a damp or muddy ground.

Pruning processes lead to its multiplication. Topping method is when you prune the stems and replant the severed parts into a rich substrate. You can also take some cuttings from its stems and replant in the substrate.

Remember to provide enough spacing so they can freely propagate without being crowded and later creating a bushy look.  Do the trimming when you see fit.

You may also prefer trimming the excesses of the bushes for a neat and pleasant look. Cuttings will fall in the substrate to form multitudes of baby shoots that eventually create a new plant.

Decorative Options

It is better for you to decide what fauna you want to keep in your aquarium, and as much as possible choose the less aggressive ones, so you maintain well the landscape and protect the aquatic plants for better growth.

The plant is forage for aquatic pests and insects. However, given proper care and nutrition, the biota survives the environment in the tank as its alternative habitat.

The shoots of Hampshire purslane is indeed an eye-catching sight if you plant it in a tiered group of 10 to 12 stems in the mid-ground. The effect is an excellent contrast with yellow-green and dark green plants bearing beautiful leaves. Its vivid coloration creates a unique focal point.

Although the impact of this weed is dependent on the aquarist's decorating preference, coloration varies from light, medium, or deepest red. The display of hues and the effect of this plant in your underwater landscape is a thing to behold.

Final Thoughts

Pet lovers are lucky enough to have this type of herb in their aquarium. It is easy to maintain, and you can even control the shades of red color it displays. If you want it a bit light red, you may opt for mild illumination. It is optional if you will add nutrients to it, but since this species is not at all fragile and demanding, you may let it grow the natural way.

However, if you want coloration to be more vibrant, it will now depend on the light intensity you will provide this species. You should also consider its nutrition. Provide sufficient nutrients when you want the coloration to be intense. Take note that everything else in your tank, not just Ludwigia palustris is susceptible to the effect of lighting and nutrients you will provide. The whole biota in your aquarium turns out to be an object of curiosity, a picturesque spectacle that depends upon your creative hands.

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