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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
True Terrestrials for Forest Floor Terrariums

This thread will explore plant selection possibilities for Forest Floor Terrariums, an apparently novel way to grow terrarium plants that uses a false bottom assembly with removable planters. Here is a quick picture to show how the assembly parts go together in a tank.



With more plants, natural features like stones of logs and a layer of leaf litter to cover the, the resulting display can have a convincing, natural look.



I am proposing this idea as a more or less new kind of system, or refinement of some existing methods, but it seems that it creates an effect more like the very traditional kind of terrarium that has media covering the bottom and with plants.



The general kind of terrarium or vivarium that has become so popular with dart frog enthusiasts and other herp hobbyists in more recent years, on the other hand, has a more vertical orientation and tends to make use of epiphytic plants.

There are already some terrestrial groups of plants used frequently in vivariums, but it appears as though the Forest Floor Terrarium concept might be an appealing way to explore new potential selections. There are some really fantastic tropical plant groups which are primarily terrestrial and which have been used very little in terrariums.

I intend to suggest a list of plant groups, then return to this thread with observations about each including sources, especially good species/varieties, biotope information and potential uses in terrariums.

I'd like to start out with the following list of considerations that I think are important for selection for this proposed use:

  • Size - some plants will grow much too large to keep in a terrarium, while certain large-growing plants might be managed in various ways to control size.
  • Compatibility with livestock
  • Growth habit - and use in visual design of terrarium
  • Selection as true tropical forest floor plants - as opposed to plants that grow as lithophytes, epiphytes or with other habitat associations.
  • Cultural requirements - and compatibility with terrarium conditions.
  • Biotope associations - plants or groups of plants characteristic of different regions and use in creating true biotope terrarium displays.

The next list includes the plant groups (grouped taxonimically or with other associations) that seem to be especially promising for use in Forest Floor Terrariums:

  • Palms (Family Araceae)
  • Aroids (Family Arecaceae)
  • Gingers (Family Zingiberaceae)
  • Trees - especially Ficus, Clusea and other horticulturally-available plants.
  • Shrubs - certain tropical woody shrubs with appealing characteristics (e.g., Melosotamataceae)
  • Prayer Plants (Family Marantaceae)
  • Terrestrial orchids (e.g., Paphiopedilum)
  • Tropical flowering bulbs (e.g., Griffinia, Hippeastrum)
  • Ferns - (true terrestrials e.g., Blechnum)
  • Begonia - more unusual, true species plants with upright growth habits
 

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While I don't want to derail another awesome thread of yours, might this be a good place to share experience/knowledge about so many of the terrestrials / forest floor plants that don't seem to make it into so many of the vivs.

I feel like so many tanks are dominated by epiphytes, begonias, gesnariads, etc, and a rather narrow set of aroids, it would be great to get some knowledge about these, and you [hydrophyte] seem to know a lot.

If you'd rather focus on this new forest floor design, by all means, just starving for some cool forest floor plants
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
While I don't want to derail another awesome thread of yours, might this be a good place to share experience/knowledge about so many of the terrestrials / forest floor plants that don't seem to make it into so many of the vivs.

I feel like so many tanks are dominated by epiphytes, begonias, gesnariads, etc, and a rather narrow set of aroids, it would be great to get some knowledge about these, and you [hydrophyte] seem to know a lot.

If you'd rather focus on this new forest floor design, by all means, just starving for some cool forest floor plants
You're not derailing anything this is the Plants sub-forum after all.

I really want to try out as many kinds of plants as possible, but so far the only group that I have made much headway with is the palms.

Most palms of course become much too large to keep in a terrarium long-term, but there are a number of true dwarf palms that stay very small and/or will take a long time to reach full size.

There are a few other strategies that might also work with palms. There are a number of smaller-growing palms that grow with rhizomes or suckers. For these it might be possible to just cut out shoots as they grow too large, then let the smaller shoots grow up from beneath. You can also slow palms down by keeping them in smaller pots.

There are few plants more elegant than palms. I think that the various mottled-leaf palms are especially beautiful and make really nice terrarium features. This one is Pinanga sp. "Thai mottled".

 

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Well the beauty of those false bottom plates of yours is you can leave them in pots and remove and replace plants that outgrow the tank
I'm putting those beautiful mini palms in a mantis tank
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
A lot of the dwarf palms might grow to 4' or 6' tall, but it would take them a while to get there.

Some, but not all, of the dwarf-growing palms also make good houseplants, so once they outgrow a viv they could be carefully reacclimated and grown in a pot.

There are also a few true miniature palms to consider. I have Licuala triphylla going here and this one supposedly grows to only 12-16" tall. It has also has a more open growth habit so it might fit better with other stuff in the viv.

The smallest palm in the world might be Dypsis minuta--I have this one too!--and supposedly only grows to about 8" tall. If you do an image search you can see D. minuta only a couple inches tall already flowering. Wow! D. poirvreana is similar and grows to only about 18".

Dypsis would be good for a Madagascar biotope for Mantella or maybe also day geckos.

I guess that there are a couple of very small Chamaedorea too, but I lost track of the names for those.

I can go dig up some more of that information and find more names...
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
I looked around some and there are other real handsome Chirita and relatives with dark brown and other attractive dark hues. I gotta get some!

I think I read that they have clamped down and now it is difficult to legally export plants from Indonesia and Malaysia, so it might be difficult for many more plants like that to get into cultivation. I don't know about seeds for stuff like that(??).
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Do you know specifically about any scientific references for those plants?

I think that Black Jungle has a Bertolonia and Kartuz has a couple of them. Look!...they had that "Domingos Martin", but it sold out...

Kartuz Greenhouses: Bertolonia sp Domingos Martins

I did not know about diverse terrestrial melostomes. I remember there were a lot of them in Costa Rica, but the ones I saw were mainly epiphytes. This is a good idea to look for more of these. I think that low plants growing in the leaf litter look especially appealing if they have that kind of organized, geometric growth habit/shape like these plants and the Chirita and dwarf palms.

I saw the Bertolonia described as "absolutely do not chill" so I would probably wait till spring before trying to order.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I rounded up a few more names for small dwarf or true miniature palms among things that I found with research or that were suggested to me...

  • Aiphanes bicornis - impossible to find(??)
  • Chamaedorea pumila
  • C. metallica - easy to find and common houseplant. Grows tallish, but leaf spread only ~10"
  • C. sullivaniorum - a lot of these Chamaedorea are rare in colutivation and with scant information
  • C. robertii
  • C. correae
  • C. simplex
  • C. palmeriana
  • C. guntheriana
  • C. amabilis
  • Reinhardtia koschnyana - probably impossible to find
  • Pinanga aristata
  • Rhapis "super dwarf"
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I just ran into a cool plant...

Google: Carex plantaginea

This would be nice for creating a grassy theme.

A lot of the sedges that you see in the trade are temperate plants, but in my experience they don't seem to have strong dormancy requirements. I have grown several different swamp-associated sedges year-round in ripariums with no trouble.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I finally got back to editing these images from the conservatory. I have a bout fifteen of them.

This is a big imposing cyclanth that they have over there, Chorigyne cylindrica.

 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I had wondered about smaller-growing, true terrestrial bromeliads. Cryptanthus spp. are common and easy to find, but I think most grow in very open, xeric habitats so they wouldn't go so well with this growing method.

I just ran into a small gnus of bromeliads mainly from Brazil that grow as forest terrestrials, Quesnelia. Some of them are pretty big and course, but there are a few smaller species.

Google: Quesnelia
 
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