Life history: Salvinia minima has three separate growth stages. In the primary stage, a small number of fern buds are introduced to a new environment, where they lie flat on the surface of the water. As the ferns grow into their secondary stage, their leaves being begin to curl upwards when the plants crowd against each other as they spread, while in the final tertiary stage, the leaves can become almost vertical due to crowding as the plants form a mat covering the water surface (Tewari and Johnson 2011).
The continuous branching and fragmentation of rhizomes turns out large volumes of vegetative daughter plants throughout the growing season. Copious hairy coverings minimize the desiccation of plants spotted on boats, trailers, alligators, turtles, and even dogs leaving the water. Lateral buds deeply imbedded in the rhizome, may lie dormant during periods of reduced moisture and cold temperature. Small rhizome fragments, commonly sheltered in associating vegetation, provide material for reintroduction on the return of favorable growing conditions.
Habitat: Salvinia minima prefers shallow backwaters of bayous, lakes and ponds, oxbows, ditches, slow flowing streams, cypress swamps, and marshes (Lellinger 1985, Nauman 1993, Jacono et al. 2001). Like Salvinia molesta, S. minima is vulnerable to conditions of salinity. Biologists along the coast of southeastern Texas find Salvinia minima in their coastal study sites only during wintertime, when freshwater outflow is high and salinity measurements decline to 4 – 7 ppt. They regularly control Salvinia minima, and improve waterfowl habitat, by opening gates to allow saline water from the Gulf of Mexico into the bayous (Kirk Blood, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Port Arthur, Texas, pers. comm.). During August, on the Waterhole Branch of the Fish River, Alabama, Salvinia minima was registered as growing well with surface water salinity levels at 4 –5 ppt. (Scott Phipps, Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, AL, pers. comm.).
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