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Accepted Scientific Name: Myrmecodia tuberosa Jack
Trans. Linn. Soc. London 14: 123 1823
Origin and Habitat: Southern Asia (Northwest coast of Borneo, East Malaysia, New Guinea, North Australia)
Habitat: Grows on the trees on the savannah.
Myrmecodia tuberosa Jack
Trans. Linn. Soc. London 14: 123 1823
- Myrmecodia tuberosa Jack
- Lasiostoma tuberosum (Jack) Spreng.
- Myrmecodia amboinensis Becc.
- Myrmecodia apoensis Elmer
- Myrmecodia armata DC.
- Myrmecodia bullosa Becc.
- Myrmecodia dahlii K.Schum.
- Myrmecodia echinata Gaudich.
- Myrmecodia goramensis Becc.
- Myrmecodia hispida A.Rich.
- Myrmecodia inermis DC.
- Myrmecodia kandariensis Becc.
- Myrmecodia lanceolata Valeton
- Myrmecodia menadensis Becc.
- Myrmecodia muelleri Becc.
- Myrmecodia oninensis Becc.
- Myrmecodia paucispina Valeton
- Myrmecodia peekelii Valeton
- Myrmecodia pentasperma K.Schum.
- Myrmecodia pulvinata Becc.
- Myrmecodia rumphii Becc.
- Myrmecodia salomonensis Becc.
- Myrmecodia sibuyanensis Elmer
- Myrmecodia sorsogonensis Elmer
- Myrmecodia urdanetensis Elmer
- Myrmecodia vivipara Warb.
ENGLISH: Ant plant
GERMAN (Deutsch): Ameisenknolle
ITALIAN (Italiano): Pianta delle Formiche
Description: It is a remarkable smallish shrub-like, epiphytic, semi-succulent plant 25-75 cm tall, with a tuberous stem which is permeated by passages and cavities which serve as nests for an immense numbers of stinging-ants. The tuber clings to trees with its roots, shelter the ants and serve as a reservoir of food. This is referred to as the 'ant plant'
Stem: The base of the stem develops a large swollen, corky, semi-succulent, caudex (tuber-like lower part) about 10-25 cm thick often growing hanging downward. The tuber is rounded, ovoid or conical often flattened with ridges and mounds, rough and covered with rows of spines. Spines (if present) simple or branched. The interior of the tuber consists of a labyrinth of intercommunicating galleries, often with entrance holes visible in arcs on the upper surface of the tuber, inhabited by ants that defend the plants against parasite insect attack. Ant colonies also provide nutrients to the plants by leaving wastes within the tunnels inside the caudex. Special glands lining the tunnels then absorb nutriment 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. Stems 1 to few usually unmbranched 10-50 cm long.
Roots: The roots show a range of shapes. Some roots may be relatively thick and tough, others very fine and fibrous.
Leaves: Opposite, crowded at the stems apexes, coriaceous, semi-succulent, oblong-cuneated, midrib prominent below. Petiole glabrous, petiolar stipulas ciliated.
Flowers: Sessile, very small white about 3-4 mm long; limb of calyx tubular with quite entire borders, corolla funnel-shaped, 4 cleft, throat of corolla closed with arched scales; stamen 4, inclosed; ovarium closed by a fleshy disk, style 1, stigma quadrifid.
Fruit: Drupe-baccate, crowned with the anular base of the calix and containing 4 seeds.
Seed: Papery arillate pyrenae.
Note: The germinating seedlings have a tumid base.
Subspecies, varieties, forms and cultivars of plants belonging to the Myrmecodia tuberosa group
Cultivation and Propagation: Rarely cultivated by amateur growers these plants can be tricky to grow well and are quick to shed their leaves if they are allowed to dry out or become too cold. They needs warm temperatures all year round with high humidity and bright light, though some protection from mid-day sun may be warranted. It is possible to grow them in a mix of peat and perlite, but an open orchids substrate (sphagnum moss, chopped fir bark, and perlite) seems the best combination. The plant is an epiphyte, needs lots of water, watered when the mix is just barely moist. If humidity is high, plants can be mounted on cork bark plaques for a more natural appearence. Mounted plants will, of course, require more frequent watering. The roots of Hydnophytum and Myrmecodia are very brittle, so great care must be taken when repotting however, the plants seem capable of producing new roots from any part of the tuber that is in contact with a moist substrate.
Pest and disease: Ant-plants are susceptible to scale and mealybugs, or accasionally red-spiders.
Propagation: They are very very easy to grow from seed. The flowers are self-pollinating and produce easily fruits and seeds, but the seeds remains viable for a very short time and must be sown immediately after harvesting. The seeds germinate equally well in light and darkness, lay them on the surface of the sowing mix, do not bury them. Fresh seed germinates quickly within a week and often the day after they were sown, ie, within twenty-four hours, and the initial swelling of the tuber is visible almost immediately. Seedlings grow rapidly if kept constantly moist. They can also be reproduced by cuttings, stems will root and grow but do not produce a tuber.
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