Epiphyte n. A plant, such as a tropical orchid or a staghorn fern, that grows on another plant upon which it depends for mechanical support but not for nutrients.
Dischidia pectinoides an epiphytic plant from the Milkweed family, Asclepiadaceae which carries on a symbiotic relationship with ants. Also known as the Ant Plant.
OK, how cool is that? This adorable little climber has balloon like leaves which, in the wild (not in my kitchen), provide a nest for ants in exchange for carbon dioxide and ideal conditions in terms of temperature and humidity. It also has tiny pinkish red flowers, that never seem to fully open, during most of the warmer months. It prefers bright, but shaded conditions and high humidity, but detests having it’s feet wet. (One website suggested you never, ever water it on a cloudy day.) It also needs a warm location, but not overly hot and protection from AC/heating vents. Well, it sounded like a real challenge, but was so cute in it’s little snail shell that I just had to get one. That was almost a year ago and so far, so good. I found it the perfect spot to hang in the kitchen above the sink. This way, I’ll remember to rinse it occasionally or mist it if it seems particularly dry. The window faces Northeast, so it gets only a tiny bit of direct light early in the morning. I use neither heat nor air conditioning so we were good on those counts. It bloomed for most of the summer and it’s color overall seems good.
There are so many things about this plant that I love. Some of the leaves at the base are puffy and balloon like, while the rest are tiny and oval shaped. It doesn’t seem to grow to fast (a concern since I’m not sure how I’d go about repotting it yet), but I understand the older they get, the faster they grow. It had been in bloom most of the (although it looked more like it was in perpetual bud). And best of all, once I found it a good spot, it’s actually pretty unfussy. In a way, I too have a symbiotic relationship with the Ant Plant. I give it what it needs to grow and that it grows makes me happy. A win-win situation, don’t ya think?
This piece is part of the blog carnival hosted by Steve Asbell over at The Rainforest Garden. To participate, check out the link to his page and just follow the directions. Steve’s passion about these curious plants is evident and I’m sure he will be a driving force in what is shaping up to be a pretty big year for the epiphytes. So what are you waiting for? Share in the fun and join the carnival!