Behind the Botanical: "Just Call me Kielmeyera..." Really! Meet the Kielmeyera Pod.

When it comes to names for our botanicals, I occasionally (for like, just a few seconds)  wax sentimental over the romantic, yet (looking back) utterly absurd Portuguese names we made up for most of our botanicals when we first started out.

One of my faves was "Encontro Pod."

I honestly have no idea how I arrived at that nom de guerre, but it stuck for a few years! However, like all goofy names, it doesn't give you much to go with, other than creating romance. And really, I'd rather create excitement and encourage experimentation and curiosity than another confusing product name! (FYI, you'll still find the old stupid names in our "Preparation" section, as I didn't bother to edit them, with a snazzy new infographic debuting soon!)

Known to science as Kielmeyera lathrophyton, and henceforth and forever to be known on our site as the "Kielmeyera Pod", it's an interesting, decidedly exotic-looking botanical with what is admittedly a most un-romantic and tongue-twisting name. Hailing from Brazil, it's actually a fruit segment of the Kielmeyera tree. They're another perfect "surrogate" for the many types of fruits which fall into tropical waterways, with their very interesting look.

A botanist would describe the fruit segments as being "lingulate"- tongue-shaped. Yeah, they really do look like that! 

(The drying fruit capsule, showing the segmented structure. Image by Ramon Junior)

Locals in the region where they are found describe the tree/fruit as "Pau-Santo-da-Serra." It's an attractive tree with that unique fruit, which has that nice combination of "exotic" and "interesting"- perfect for utilization in aquascaping, right?

The genus Kielmeyera  (a member of the Family Calophyllaceae )is endemic to South America mainly in the Brazilian "cerrados" (savannas), found mainly in secondary formations in well exposed terrain on slopes and the tops of elevations where the soil is rather clay-like. So, yeah, you're not likely to find it in a tropical stream, but you never know.

An evergreen tree with a roundish, sparse crown, Kielmeyera achieves a height of about 40 feet, and is used for construction throughout its natural range. It's more commonly used for its aesthetics; used in landscaping.

(Image by Jorge Silva, used under CC BY S.A 4.0)

Kielmeyera contains phenylcoumarins, neoflavonoids, and a few other fancy-sounding chemicals which, I'll be damned if I know what the hell they're for. Nonetheless, a surprisingly large amount of research has been done on the tree, from a chemical standpoint! They are known to have a large number of coumarins- aromatic organic chemical compounds- which have a sort of vanilla scent, which were used in flavoring food in the past...Interesting!

Yes, they do smell quite nice.

Although not widely used medicinally, an extract from the bark has been tested for antimicrobial properties against such nasty organisms as Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. As you may suspect, it was minimally effective, if at all.

What we DO know that these pods can deliver is tannins. At least, the type which can color the water. These pods are apparently filled with some pretty significant quantities, as they will most definitely impart an orangish-brown color to the water when submerged. They bring that "generic tropical" aesthetic that we love so much around here!

They are also interesting from the standpoint of utility in our aquariums. We find them to "play well" in our aquariums over the long term, holding up very well to submersion, and blending in nicely as part of a bed of mixed botanicals. They are surprisingly durable, and do recruit some nutritious biofilms on their surfaces when submerged over extended periods of time. Although they soften up, they will retain a large amount of "structural rigidity. This durable nature makes them a sort of "semi-permanent" component of a leaf litter/botanical bed.

Another "functional" feature of Kielmeyera pods are that they are eager grazed on and even partially consumed by shrimp. Apparently, they're quite tasty to these guys! (maybe it's the "vanilla" scent?)

The preparation of these botanicals is pretty straightforward. Like most other botanicals, boiling is the best way to prepare them. And it takes a bit of time; we recommend boiling them for at least half an hour to get them waterlogged enough to sink. It could occasionally take longer, depending on the state of the pods when you prep them.

That being said, the time spent preparing them is well worth it! These botanicals are  aesthetically unique, functional, and- well, apparently tasty to a number of our aquarium inhabitants! 

In our world, you can't ask for much more than that! 

Until next time...when we go behind another botanical! 

Stay curious. Stay creative. Stay excited...

And Stay Wet.

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


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