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Ant Plants (Myrmecophytes)

Discussion in 'Live Plants' started by Endagr8, Aug 6, 2011.

  1. Endagr8

    Endagr8 Arachnoangel

    Insectivorous plants have gotten a good bit of attention around here, but what about the plants that share mutualistic relationships with our beloved spineless wonders, particularly ants?

    From Wikipedia, describing the relationship of Hydnophytum and Myrmecodia species to ants:
    "Ant plants provide habitats for ant colonies high up into the forest canopy, protecting them from the elements and also predators because of the spines. Hollow, smooth-walled tunnels form within the caudex with external entrance holes, providing an above-ground home for ant colonies. Ants likewise provide defense for the plant and prevent tissue damage, swarming to defend their home if disturbed. Ant colonies also provide nutrients to the plants by leaving wastes within the tunnels inside the caudex. Special glands lining the tunnels then absorb nutrients for the plant. This symbiosis allows the plants to effectively gather nutrients (via the ants) from a much larger area than the roots ever could cover."

    Here's a couple of the plants I grow. They're not too impressive yet; in fact, not a single gallery opening is visible yet. But with some time and patience, they'll surely be spectacular. Young Hydnophytum formicarium (left foreground) and Hydnophytum simplex (center foreground) I purchased from ebay a few weeks ago:
    Myrmecodia tuberosa:

    I'm also growing a H. formicarium from seed, another H. simplex, and H. mosleyanum.

    Post yours! I'd love to see some plants from other genera! And in situ pictures would be great! :biggrin:
  2. moose35

    moose35 Arachnoprince Old Timer

    neat stuff. i've wanted to pick 1 of these up.

    now it looks like i have to.

  3. pavel

    pavel Arachnobaron

    Never grown any of these myself, but have known a couple folks who did. For what it's worth, those individuals said they found the plants did better in a basket than potted for them. Just a thought.
  4. Endagr8

    Endagr8 Arachnoangel

    Do it! One of these would look awesome in your frog viv! :smile:

    You're absolutely right. Epiphytes like these do well in well-drained soil mixes and/or net pots. I guess the seller I ordered them from has perfected his watering regimen. But I have a tendency to overwater, so I'll be switching them over to baskets soon enough. Thanks! :smile:
  5. Malhavoc's

    Malhavoc's Arachnoking Old Timer

    out of curiosity as a keeper of ants, do all ants like ot live in these? or is it a selective species interaction?
  6. Endagr8

    Endagr8 Arachnoangel

    In nature, I'm pretty sure it's selective. But in the confines of a terrarium, I'm sure it's possible to force some species to inhabit them. Cross-sectional shots of the galleries these plants grow look extremely similar to some of the plaster formicaria I've seen. At the National Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., I saw a few ants in proximity to their ant plants. I'm unsure if they actually inhabited the plants.
  7. Malhavoc's

    Malhavoc's Arachnoking Old Timer

    Im going to have to look into them, would be intresting if I could raise one of the plants in a terrarium and have the ants inhabit them. issue would be the ants prefering the soil.
  8. Louise E. Rothstein

    Louise E. Rothstein Arachnobaron Old Timer

    My draceanas seep honey whenever they flower. I did not know why until the year that ants got to the honey...and they pollinated the flowers:
    The one year that ants climbed my flowering draceanas was the only year that their seeds were ever able to grow.
  9. Where can you get these?
  10. pavel

    pavel Arachnobaron

  11. Endagr8

    Endagr8 Arachnoangel

    Ebay! I got mine from this guy. He lists stuff almost every week.
  12. Galapoheros

    Galapoheros ArachnoGod Old Timer

    I think it's got to be selective ant sps, somebody gave me a tiny one of these but it died, my bad, very interesting plant imo.
  13. Malhavoc's

    Malhavoc's Arachnoking Old Timer

    I think as most ants are opertunistic, you could potentialy get any species to move inside the plant, I a sure the plant offers secretions to make it even more worth while, as an ant keeper I think the hardest dificulty would be getting them to nest inside the plant and not in the culture bneath that contains the roots of the plant ( but as the medium seems to be moss and otherl ight things it seems easier. but I dont want to cross my fingers prematurly) I think it is more likely that any species you introduce to the ant has to be one that wont potentialy harm it (carpenter ants)
  14. I can see these plants easily providing homes for a number of common species, like Tapinoma, Monomorium, Crematogaster, Pheidole, and Temnothorax. Since I haven't seen these caverns which these plants supossively have, I assume they aren't large, and will mostly provide homes for smaller ant species like the ones above. I might try introducing the two organisms in a terrarium later on, assuming I have bought the plant...I don't think it would be hard at all with my local species.
  15. J Morningstar

    J Morningstar Arachnoprince Old Timer

  16. Endagr8

    Endagr8 Arachnoangel

    Eventually the galleries will get pretty large. I think I've got a few years before my plants are this size.

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