Cabomba furcata (Cabombaceae)
by Siti Munirah Mat Yunoh
Cabomba furcata (Cabombaceae)
by Siti Munirah Mat Yunoh

Cabomba furcata (Cabombaceae) is an aquatic plant called the forked fanwort or pink Cabomba. It belongs to order Nymphaeales, which also includes the waterlilies, Nymphaeaceae. It is native in tropical and subtropical South America and the West Indies but is now well-established in Peninsular Malaysia, Cabomba furcata is more widespread than C. aquatica and is already a serious alien waterweed in Tasik Chini, Pahang, where local people call it ekor kucing. This species is potentially invasive and threatens the ecology of open, slow-flowing water bodies. It is recognized by its submerged, reddish, feathery fan-leaves and pretty pink-purple flowers that look like miniature waterlilies. It is usually seen growing in shallow, slow-flowing water in full sun, as well as in deeply shaded areas, and it can form large masses covering an extensive area.

Cabomba furcata Schult. & Schult.f.

Stems olive-green to reddish brown.Submerged filiform leaves dark purple, in whorls of three, at the apex often opposite; petioles c. 1–2 cm, lamina with linear divisions in one plane, c. 4 cm long. Floating peltate leaves olive-green, sometimes with a dark purple margin, lamina narrowly rhombic or linear to lanceolate, occasionally sagittate, 20–40 × 3 mm. Pedicels 2–5.5 cm long. Flowerspurplish, 6–12 mm diameter, 5–10 mm long; sepals obovate-elliptic, 5–9 × 2–4 mm, apex obcordate, basal third yellow, distal two thirds purplish red to bluish violet with darker veins, with a darker rim at margin; petals ovate-oblong, 5–9 × 2–5 mm, base slightly auriculate, the lobes with two yellow, confluent patches, the claw whitish; stamens greenish yellow, 5 mm long, anthers yellow; carpels 2, divergent at maturity. Seeds globose, 1–2 mm diameter, echinate, surface verrucate. (Siti-Munirah & Chew 2010).

Cabomba furcata is distributed in South America (Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Venezuela) and the West Indies (Costa Rica, Cuba and Trinidad). In Peninsular Malaysia, it is naturalised in Johor (Sg. Sedili Kechil and Sg. Mati), Pahang (Tasik Chini), Penang (stream from recreation forest and rice fields, Taman Rimba Telok Bahang & Kubang Semang), Perak (black water stream near Bukit Merah lake and Taiping Lake Garden) and Selangor (stream from Klang Gates dam).

In its native habitat, it grows in tropical climates with a brief dry season, in shallow (up to 3 m deep), warm (18–30oC), acidic to slightly acidic (pH 4–7), more-or-less stagnant water in lakes, streams and floodplains. It is a light-demanding plant. It thrives on organic nutrients when it becomes fast growing (e.g., its stem can grow 12 cm a month). It propagates from plant fragments as well as from seed. It is therefore pre-adapted to conditions in Peninsular Malaysia.

Cabomba furcata is an ornamental plant in the aquarium trade. It is cultivated commercially in Malaysia for its pretty reddish, feathery fan-leaves and is readily available for sale in aquarium shops.

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