Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ant Farming

Woke this morning to temperatures of  -10F.
The blue jays line the trees,

This is the Year of the Blue Jay!
Record numbers are being recorded here in the Northeast US.
Although it is only mid-January, I'm already weary of the biting cold, and my thoughts have turned to spring.
Little sister keeps assuring me that spring is just around the corner!
I wait with anticipation for our daily jaunts through the forest in search of my favorite flowers of all,
the spring ephemerals!
One of the phenomenoms surrounding these alluring
harbingers of spring
that intrigues me the most
is a symbiotic relationship called myrmecochory,
or "Ant Farming".

Ants are attracted to the seeds of certain species of spring bloomers because the seeds bear small protruberances called elaiosomes.  These elaiosomes contain fatty food, attractive oils, and possibly sugars, and are considered to be a tasty treat if you are an ant.  The ants carry the seeds into their nests, sometimes as far away as 70-75 yards, where they dine on this gourmet meal.  But the seed shells are too hard to penetrate, and are cast off in an unused tunnel.  Here, protected amid the nutrients in the soil, the seeds will germinate.

Among the species of spring ephemerals that encourage ants to collect their seeds are:

violets (Viola sp.)

Wood Anenome (Anenome cinquifolia)

Hepatica (Anenome Americana)

Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) 
Ground beetles and crickets also disperse trout lily seeds. 

Purple Trillium (Trillium erectum)

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)

and Wild Ginger (Asarum caudatum).

(Photos compliments of Little Sister, the "Holly" in KaHolly, my mentor.)

"Just what makes that little old ant, think he can move a rubber tree plant.........." 


Anonymous said...

I loved seeing the flowers of your locale. It is raining and gray here in the northwest currently, but we have not had the cold temperatures that most of the nation has been getting. It's always interesting to see how the animals and birds like the jay you focused upon deal with the weather. I guess we just have to puff ourselves up as if we had additional shields to insulate us.

Monts said...

Hi just passed by your blog and must comment on your recent posts, the Blue Jay is beautiful and the floral shots are stunning,That Barred Owl is a great find as we all know how hard it is to find this species. Nice Blog, Well done.

Stephanie said...

Now even that blue jay looks cold! Spring is the reward we get after enduring winter. Worth the wait.

Poetikat said...

Are you in NS? Brrrr!
Love that shot of the bluejay. You MUST come check out my haiku blog here:

KaHolly said...

Thanks, everyone.

Natural Moments, I'm puffed up, all right! With about 3 layers of clothes!

Welcome, Monts, and thanks for stopping by!

Hi, Kat! No, I'm in Maine for a few weeks. Just ret'd from visiting S. Texas for the holidays. Making the rounds before I return to the island. Nice to see ya'! ~karen

Stine in Ontario said...

Cool post. Alas it will be a while till the first day of spring. But the good news is we are halfway through the coldest month of the year (at least in Ontario).

Lovely photos of the wildflowers.

KaHolly said...

Stine, And soon it will be February. And February is a short month. And then it will be March. And March means spring! See? That's not so bad! ~karen

Audrey said...

You always have such amazing photos!! Love the blue jay, we have 2 of them that stay the winter.

eileeninmd said...

Beautiful flowers and photos!

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Karen: Cool captures of the jay and the flowers.

~mel said...

That blue jay looks about the same way I feel today.

Martha Miller said...

Gorgeous flower photos!!!

Carrie P. said...

I have always loved wild violets. I even had collection of things that had violets on them.
Our first snow that we had before Christmas brought 3 blue jay visitors. They sure did go through the peanuts fast.

Steffi said...

Great and cute photos!Really beautiful!