A. gigantea Cheveller ex Hutchinson: 1. Lower side leaf. 2. Inflorescence. 3. detail of nervature, back side leaf. 4. upper side symandrium. 5. part of a synandrium, side view
Upon purchasing several different species of Anubias, I was not able to find an identification which clearly showed their existence. One of the growers in Florida assured me these were species idenfified in European publications unavailable in this country. Not only were they not available, but very old, sometane in the early 1900's. So I began my search to find an authoritative, up to date identification of the genus Aubias (Schott).
After reviewing all my current information I believed many of the Anubias I received had different names, but were the same plant. I checked the local libraries for tropical plant publications. Nothing on Anubias. Then I checked the Minneapolis Public Library, an abstract search was performed by a cooperative librarian. An abstract is a short synopsis of the journal, periodical or literature and where it was originally published. This search netted a single return.
The genus Anubias was established in 1857 by a fellow named Schott. He established the genus based on one species. Over the last one hundred years many new species were identified. Collectors and researchers named and re-named and reclassified the species. But in 1979, a complete revision was made, based on a study of actual cultivation of the species and research of the previous materials and literature from many different authors and herbariums.
A. pymaertii De Wildeman: 1. lower side leaf. 2. inflorescence. 3. upper side synandrium. 4. synandrium, side view. 5. upper side synandrium.
This journal was printed in the Mededelingen Landouwhogeschool in Wageningen Nederland. For translation: The Laboratory of Plant Taxonomy and Plant Geoography, Agricultural University. Wageningen, The Netherlands. Author: W. Cnisio. After my own study of publications we use for identification and comparing them to this journal, I am convinced that it is excellent for identification and generally replaces all other descriptions and accounts of the genus.
Anubias is found in western tropical Africa, along strembeds in warm shady areas. Although in the aquarium it will grow submerged, it is most frequently found above the surface of the water. Some species will grow to a height of one meter or more. Blossoming usually occurs in the spring and is the only way of determine species, outside of leaf shape. Leaf shape is quite variable and so may not really indicate the true species. In fact this has been the very reason so many collectors of Anubiashave mis-identified the various species. I have heard of the genus Anubias referred to as the 'African Cryptocoryne" probably for the same reasons I have just described; blossoming and leaf shape.
To quote Rataj and Hormans' Aquarium Plants:
"We are not so sure that the plants cultivated in our tanks have been identified correctly. A skillful revision is needed. Many species are undoubtedly cultivated under incorrect names. Large species, reaching a height of 1 meter, have usually been regarded as A. lanceolatus or A. congensis, most probably they belong to A. heterophyllae."
A. heterophylla Engler: 1. Lower side leaf. 2. inflorescence, completely opened. 3. inflorescence, somewhat more closed. 4. synandrium, side view. 5. upper side synandrium. 6. berry. 7. seed.
This published in 1977, raised questions as to the reliability of supposed species and sub-species identification and defined the need for a new revision of the genus Anubias.
The Baensch Aquarium Atlas uses this new revision on page 114 to describe the varieties: Anubias barteri var. nana and Anubias barteri var. glabra. The synonym names are shown, proving that A. nana and A. lanceolata are no longer considered correct.
A. barteri Schott: 1. var. caladifolia Engler, lower side leaf. 2. var. glabra N. E. Brown, upper side leaf. 3. var. nana (Engler) Cruzie, upper side leaf. 4. var. angustifolia (Engler) Cruzio, upper side leaf.
A. barteri Schott var barteri: 1. upper side leaf. 2. lower side leaf. 3. inflorescence. 4. inflorescence. 5. upper side synandrium. 6. synsndrium, side view. 7. part of the rhizome
However, there are other sources of plants, mostly catalogues, which will continue to use other names for the species and will continue to "find new species" for the buying public. Unless they can document the new species or variety with cultivation and comparison, as well as collection point, I doubt that the "new species" exists except in their minds. More likely, they have crossed one species with another which will only lead to chaos.
A. aftelli Schott: 1. upper side leaf. 2. inflorescence. 3. synandrium 4. upper side sunandrium 5. anther, front view. 6. part of the rhizome.
According to the Crusio revision, there are eight species, no sub-spe6es, and five varieties. Seven of the species stand by themselves with only A. barteri being divided into five varieties. The varieties described exhibited constant leaf pattern when cultivated but were not taxonomically different enough to warrant sub-species level.
The eight species recognized are: A. afzelli, A. A barteri, A. gigantea, A. gillitii, A. gracilis, A. hostifolia, A. heterophylla and A. pynaertii.
The five varieties recognized are all A. barteri. They are: A. var. caladiifolia, A. var. nana, A. var. barteri, A var. angustifolia and A. var. glabra.
Rather than try to describe each species with words, I have copied the leaf blade and inflorescence drawings directly from the Crusio journal. The drawings are attributed to Miss. Ike Zewald, apparently a staff member at the university in Wageningen.
As you can see from the drawings, them are many similarities in leaf shape. Athough it is true that the best way to determine species is the blossom, there are reliable sources of Anubias. Here is where you, as a hobbiest must invest some time. A major part of collecting and propagating plants in the aquarium is in identfication. When considefing a purchase, ask questions as to the species name and orgin. Compare what you see with known pictures or drawings.
A .gilletti De Wilderman et Durand: 1. lower side leaf. 2. upper side leaf. 3. inflorescence. 4. upper side synandrium 5. synamdrium side view. 6. pistil, opened. 7. cross section of pistil, evules removed.
I would like to thank Mr. Ted Hathaway at the Minneapolis Public Library, the librarians and the Circulation Department at the Agricultural University Cental Library, University of Minnesota
Aquarium Plants, Rataj & Horman, TFH
Baensch Aquarium Atlas, Tetra Press
A Revision of Anubias (Schott), W. Crusio - author, Laboratory of Plant Taxonomy and Plant Geography, Agricultural University, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Oriental Aquarium, Singapore
Water Plants in the Aquarium, Ines Scheurmum
A Fishkeepers Guide to Aquarium Plants, Barry James
A. hastifolia Engler: 1. lower leaf side. 2. inflorescence. 3. synandrium, side view, 4. upper side synandrium. 5. detail of nervature, lower side leaf.
A. gracilis Cheveller ex Hutchinson: 1. lower side leaf. 2. upper side leaf. 3. bud. 4. infloreseence. 5. upper side synandrium. 6. synandrium, side view. 7. detail of nervature. lower side leaf.