Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ant Farming

Because it is THAT time of year, I am duplicating a previous post for

 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)

(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.........." 

Most of this information was gleaned from my favorite book of all - The Secrets of Wildflowers by John Sanders


Travis Erwin said...

Interesting and a fact I did not know.

lisaschaos said...

I had no idea ants liked so many plants, I knew they liked peonies but wow. I love trillium!

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Karen: A wonderful story about wild flowers symbiosis with the ant.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea that this was partially a function of ants...I plan to pay more attention to them this season... Great Nature Notes post Karen.....Michelle

martha miller (it's all art, isn't it?) said...


Just Ramblin' said...

I always learn something new every time I read your blog and this time was no different. Remember as a little girl all the ants on mother's peonies but just thought they were a pain and made it almost impossible to bring them in the house. Guess I'll have to be a little more patient with the ants. Great pictures! Nola

Carletta said...

Lovely shots and post!

KaHolly said...

Thank you all for visiting my post on Ant Farming. I enjoyed your comments. ~karen

MyMaracas said...

I never knew this about ants! And these are some of my favorite wildflowers, too.

Living In Williamsburg Virginia said...

Fantastic photos and you always provide such interesting info.

Darryl and Ruth : )

Pam said...

Mother Nature is a master planer in the grand scheme of things...isn't she!
Your wildflower photos are beautiful, Karen. But I had a tough time finding the ants ;)

KaHolly said...

Pam, You crack ME up!!! Thanks for stopping by and putting a smile on my face.

Darryl and Ruth, I feel the same about your blog!!! It's one of my favorites.

MM, Ants are pretty amazing little creatures, to be sure! Ever had the opportunity to observe an ant farm between glass?

mandapanda said...

They are just gorgeous!!