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What the "Myrme" in Myrmecophila means...

Discussion in 'Everything Else Orchid' started by RustyExotics, Jul 13, 2018.

  1. RustyExotics

    RustyExotics Nicholas - It's a terrestrial thing

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    Hey everyone!

    I noticed something a few days ago on one of my Myrmecophila orchids and thought it was pretty interesting and even a little funny and maybe even concerning as to how it effect the winter-move of my orchids. That interesting thing is an ant, or really, a bunch of ants.

    Myrmecophila is a truly impressive genus of orchid all around. Many of the species form medium to large sized cone or cylinder shaped pseudobulbs and thick light yellow-green leaves. Some of them (Myrmecophila tibicinis in particular) can form 13 foot (~ 4 meter) flower spikes that take several months to develop into a gorgeous display flowers while others form smaller, more bashful inflorescence like Myrmecophila albopurpurea and the appropriately named Myrmecophila humboldtii.

    Despite their differences in size, they all have one thing precisely in common which is what unites them all under the genus of Myrmecophila: They all form mutualistic symbiosis with ants.

    The Greek words "myrmex" and "philos" are loosely translated as "ant" and "loving," respectively, which is how this genus got it's name. This incredible relationship is also what I noticed on two of my "ant-loving" orchids.

    About a week ago, I noticed some large red ants (this is why I'm a little bit concerned) running around on the new growth of my Myrmecophila tibicinis. I was both excited and worried when I saw this, so I figured I'd let them stay and both fertilize and protect the orchid for the summer. Why I find it so interesting is because I've been able to see the colony grow larger over the several days I have been watching them. I'm intrigued to see how they do the remainder of the summer and how it plays out when It's time to bring the orchids inside!

    Here are some pictures of the tiny colony of large red ants that are currently inhabiting my orchid. Any suggestions on the name of the colony?

    IMG_4136.jpg IMG_4139.jpg
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  2. spiro K.

    spiro K. Well-Known Member

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    The interesting thing is that even though the ants are of a different species than the plant would encounter in its natural habitat, they step right into the role of protectors at the first opportunity.!
    RustyExotics likes this.