What miracles do not happen in nature! And Hydnophytum moseleyanum is a real “living miracle”.
Ant plants are perennial epiphytes with woody tubers that settle on tree branches in open tropical forests and live in close symbiosis with ants. Numerous cavities are formed inside the tubers. Specialized tissues “voluntarily” cut off the supply of nutrients to certain areas, as a result of which the plant cells die off, creating a tangled ant maze. Entrances are usually located at the base of the caudex, very rarely below it. The ant colony can further expand and change these cavities as it sees fit. The plant shelters insects and they bravely defend their “house”, distribute its seeds and provide additional food from their waste. Sometimes spiders, scorpions, cockroaches, and other “illegal immigrants” settle in tubers.
What Does the Plant Look Like?
The plant has slightly succulent leaves and long thin stems. In the axils of the leaves, small, thin flowers can grow, followed by yellow-orange berries. Tuber (caudex): horizontal to hanging, spherical, up to 25-38 cm in diameter. The tuber has very complex cavities, inside which some arboreal ant species live. The stem is many-flowered, succulent, cylindrical, up to 1 m, often highly branched. The leaves are elliptical, or ovate-elliptical to lanceolate-oblong, up to 8 cm long and 5 cm wide. The inflorescences are formed in the leaf axils; they are very shriveled, short, and obtuse, with a scattered uncolored bloom. Flowers are sessile, collected in groups. Now that we have an idea of what this amazing plant looks like, let’s take a closer look at ant-plant care.
Hydnophytum moseleyanum Care
Hydnophytum loves warm and humid conditions with good circulation of fresh air. In comfortable conditions, “anthills” grow quickly and after 4-5 years, tubers can reach more than 15 cm in diameter.
Watering the plants is best done less frequently, but with plenty of water, allowing the substrate to nearly dry before the next watering. But overdrying the substrate can put the plant into hibernation, where it can lose a lot of leaves, and over time the roots. The frequency of watering directly depends on the permeability of the substrate and the ambient temperature. In the heat, the plant slows down its growth, direct sunlight can burn the leaves and caudex. In cold weather and winter, watering is reduced, preventing the substrate from completely drying out.
You should fertilize your hydnophytum quite often: every second or third watering. Especially in spring, when the growth rate increases. Fertilizer is best diluted to half or one-third of the recommended dose.
In nature, hydnophytum grow horizontally or hanging down; in gardening, they easily adapt to vertical growth. They are grown in a permeable substrate, for example, in a mixture of peat or moss with perlite or expanded clay, or in spruce bark with the addition of coconut fiber, or any standard mixture for epiphytes. The roots are very fragile, so when transplanting, you must try not to damage them. Fortunately, frequent transplanting is not required for plants, and the lost root system in a moist substrate is restored over time.
Hydnophytum winters well in indoor conditions on a sunny windowsill at 20-25 ° C.
Hydnophytum grows well from cuttings, but no caudex is formed. Rooted cuttings bloom easily, they can be used to obtain seeds, from which then grow specimens with tubers.
The seeds are small, elongated-ovate.
They are practically not stored, they must be sown immediately after being removed from the fruit. The extracted seeds are washed with running water through a strainer, washing away most of the mucus, and immediately sown, preventing them from drying out.
The seeds germinate well in bright, diffused lighting on any warm, damp, well-permeable surface. As a substrate, you can use a potting mixture for orchids, coconut fiber, or sphagnum. The substrate should never dry out, and the temperature should not drop below 25 °C (optimally 27-30 °C). You should not cover the sowing container, as the seeds need a constant inflow of fresh air.
The “natural” method has proven itself well: the seeds are simply scattered around the mother plant, where they usually germinate quickly and amicably. Fruiting plants are often self-seeding.
Seeds sprout within a week or so. The hypocotyl in seedlings thickens almost immediately, even under the cotyledon’s leaves. Seedlings develop rapidly in a constantly moist substrate with bright, diffused lighting and good ventilation. Already at a young age, with a diameter of about 1 cm, tubers of hydnophytum form the first voids – the rudiments of future chambers.
Precautions: the plant is poisonous since its leaf plates contain a large amount of strong toxic substances. Therefore, any operations with the plant must be performed with gloves, observing all precautions. The ant-plant pot must be placed in such places so that small children or pets cannot access it.
This plant needs attention. You can’t just put it wherever you want and water it at best 2 times a month, as with some less picky plants. Growing them is not difficult for those hobbyists who are familiar with the cultivation of orchids or tropical ferns. But even if you did not have such experience, it is not so difficult to follow all these rules if you want to be an owner of such an unusual plant.
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