Ants Ahoy

Author: Amanda C.

Well, we know we’ve got ants in the garden at the Alcove! Which is not the bad thing some people think it is. All right, no-one likes having an ant-hill pop up under their moss phlox. But ants are important seed dispersers for a number of native plant species with relatively large heavy seeds, including bloodroot, wild ginger, and trillium. The seeds of these plants include a fatty growth, called an elaiosome, on the surface, which the ants want to take and store for food. So they pick up the seeds and bring them home, and when the elaiosome has been eaten, the seed gets put on their midden/compost heap. So the seed gets essentially planted in compost by the ants, and has a chance to sprout at a distance from the mother plant. The baby bloodroot shown here is close to the parent, but other seedlings of this, and the wild ginger, are showing up over a foot from the parent plants, so someone’s moving them!

Shows a bloodroot seedling near the parent plant

A bloodroot seedling near the parent plant. Seedlings of bloodroot and ginger farther from the plant are probably moved by ants using the seed elaiosome for food.

Photo: Amanda C.

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