I've grown an awful lot of Vals and one thing that supports that they are root feeders is that they never seem to begin growing till they've sat undisturbed for quite some time. I've always rationalized that they were putting their energies into root growth (for, you guessed it...root feeding).
Juat another anecdote but they will root faster and grow more vigorously with more current. Presuming not so much current they're pulled up by it of course. They do feed off the blades but in habitat they're adapted to being pushed around by current like palm trees are pushed around by wind. No or very short branches mean less to break off.
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