Erythronium Seeds showing Eliasomes and Ants: Myrmecochory

Elaiosomes are little fleshy projections on plant seeds that are irresistibly attractive to ants.  When ants discover such seeds, they seize them and carry them away to their nests, where presumably the elaiosomes are fed to the ant larvae.  The seeds are then discarded, much as we discard cherry pits, though with many ant species the discarded seeds are carefully removed from the nest and dropped some distance away.  With a little luck, some of the seeds are dropped where they can grow into new plants, well away from where they would compete with the parent plants.  Myrmecochory is the name given to this extraordinary natural process by which plants make use of the remarkable energy of ants to get their seeds dispersed to new growing sites.  See more here.

Seeds capsule on stalk

Erythronium sibiricum capsules burst open to show seeds and white, curling eliasomes. Notice how the capsule walls curl back to drop the seed.

Ant gathering Erythronium seed with eliasomes

Ant gathering Erythronium seed with eliasomes

Ant with spilled Erythronium seeds

Ant with spilled Erythronium japonicum seeds. Notice the distinctive shape of the eliasomes

Ants gathered around an Erythronium umbilicatum seed.  Notice the eliasome and the very tiny ants.

About Art Guppy

Art spent over 70 years studying and writing about native plants of the Pacific Northwest from BC to California, especially the genus Erythronium and related plants. This site is a compilation of his work for the benefit of naturalists everywhere.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Erythronium, Myrmecochory and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Erythronium Seeds showing Eliasomes and Ants: Myrmecochory

  1. Pingback: Ants and a New Look at Erythronium | Art Guppy, Naturalist

  2. Pingback: Ants and a New Look at Erythronium Part 1 | Art Guppy, Naturalist

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