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Forum for Epiphytic Myrmecophytes


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About Derrick

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  1. An Australian entomologist friend who first introduced me to ant-plants in Australia, told me years ago about a population of plants he had discovered north of Weipa on the the Gulf of Carpentaria on the west side of Cape York Peninsula, Australia. It was a population of myrmecodias with WHITE FRUITS. Back then, it was not well known that M.beccarii was first typified and described from "a very rare specimen" found somewhere on the gulf coast back in the 1880's. Thus initially there seemed to be a possibility that it might be a species new to science. However, now that we know M.beccarii is found as far north as the Iron Range region (which is only slightly to the south of Weipa but on the other side of the peninsula) and that M.beccarii had existed on the gulf coast, it seemed most probable that it might be that species. Thus in 2015 I spent a few days in the region hoping to find a population that had been reported as common specimens. Sadly, although numerous sites were found that seemed ideal habitat, not a single Myrmecodia was found, even in locations where Dischidia nummularia a very common cohabitant was very frequent. The Melaleuca forests (prime M.beccarii habitat) showed signs of intense bush fires and the nearby Rio Tinto strip mining areas were off limits so these are possible reasons why no specimens were found. I have attempted to advise the Australia Botanical authorities of the probable presence of a unique population (very possibly genetically distinct) but I have been ignored. The following link is for the actual herbarium specimens collected from the gulf coast habitat by my friend but they have been incorrectly labelled as the very widepread species M. platytyrea subsp antoinii. which they most certainly are not (it has orange fruits). http://biocache.ala.org.au/occurrences/151fcb20-a39b-4cba-b8a8-ccf03066bf33 The Australian botanical community seem very determined not to accept their error, possibly because of the enormous power of the Rio Tinto mining empire that is completely denuding vast areas of pristine forest by removing meters of topsoil and ALL of its lifeforms so that they may then remove many meters of the underlying bauxite (aluminium ore). Now I have indisputable proof from Rio Tinto's own site analysis that Myrmecodia beccarii does (or now DID?) exist in these lands. http://www.riotinto.com/documents/SoE_Vol3_EPBC_assessment_report_part_1.pdf
  2. Avonia journal

    The December 2017 issue of the prestigious German journal Avonia has an article with photos about the ant-plants of Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea. It is presented with what I hope is enough background information to encourage others to follow in my footsteps. The next issue will cover part two; the islands.
  3. A very rare field trip opportunity

    Enoch has advised this is not such a joint arrangement as Wayaki suggests. However, the reality is that Enoch (who is a rapid learner) after leading both my and Dr Andreas Wistuba's tours of Papua New Guinea's ant-plant habitats is totally indispensible to such tours. I am very tempted to do such a tour myself but I am currently awaiting a hip replacement operation and I am an old man.
  4. I have just acquired a Facebook contact in Vanuatu whom intends to search for this rather hydnophytum like species.
  5. A very rare field trip opportunity

    Here is an email recently arrived from Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. "Hello Derrick and merry xmas to you. I am writing up a tour program with Enoch Bulunamur to do an ant plant tour and wondering if possible can you connect us to people you know off. My gmail add; waiyaki.nemani @gmail.com. Please advice if this is good to you. Thanks." This is a very rare and unique opportunity to see a large range of myrmecodomic species in habitat with spectacular scenery and wildlife. Furthermore, I can very confidently recommend your experienced guides. Both my and Dr Andreas photos provide hints of what you will see and Enoch is finding ever more populations that may prove to be new to science.
  6. A fantastic new seed source.

    Enoch has or will have access to seed of the following species not yet in cultivation as far as I am aware. Anthorrhiza areolata. A. bracteosa, A. recurvispina, Hydnophytum orichalcum (a Jebb & Huxley unpublished species but possibly not a Hydnophytum, thus particularly interesting, H. petiolatum var argentatum which is a Jebb & Huxley unpublished new variety from Normanby Island. Myrmecodia "gurney" with reputedly pink fruits, M. tuberosa "siasiada village" which is probably a new 'variant' or may prove to be a new species. Among those fairly common in cultivation are Hydnophytum moseleyanum, the ant-fern Lecanopteris sinuosa (ripe spores survive posting fairly well and Myrmecodia platytyrea subsp. antoinii. He has also found populations of one of the large leafed Hydnophytum species that may be something new but a number of species are in cultivation. Photos of them all are recorded in https://www.facebook.com/groups/498723016920977/. Also bear in mind that Huxley and Jebb's M. tuberosa 'variants' may prove to be full species after future DNA studies. Dischidia nummularia, D. ovata and others are also possibles.
  7. A fantastic new seed source.

    I am posting this here primarily for Jay Vannini whom is among the very best cultivators of ant-plants on our planet, but his disdain for Facebook means he is probably missing an invaluable communications source because it is evident that noone on this site has the initiative to share even very important ant-plant news. I will now set some background. Papua New Guinea is not a developed country and survival there is very demanding especially in remote areas. I was asked to talk to the kids in the mission school about their local ant-plants. Many of the trees in the mission grounds were replete with myrmecophytic guilds. The school had no desks and seats and not a book or writing paper etc. to be seen. When I got home I sent the school a carton of story books but the postage just to the Alotau post office cost more than the contents. Thus expect to pay very well for initial seed offers. Yet even in very distant villages the locals have limited modern communications using smartphones and solar powered chargers. A couple of years ago I was able to reach some of the very remote islands out in the Solomon Sea which are home to a number of rubiacious ant-plants. One of our principal local ecoguides was Enoch Bulunamur who is based in the mission grounds near Siasiada Village on the mainland. He is now very interested in ant-plants and is discovering ever more new to cultivation species (indeed some not even published yet) and many are now being cultivated in the Breakthrough Mission grounds. On my visit we found Anthorrhiza areolata, A. bracteosa, A. recurvispina and what I have tentatively labelled Myrmecodia tuberosa "siasiada village" because it appears to be different from all other Huxley & Jebb 'variants' and other taxa of lesser importance. Since then Enoch has discovered ever more populations of hydnophytums some of which are yet to be published species and one that may be placed in another possibly even a new genus. Most species are not in cultivation. Enoch is now offering seed but I have advised him that he should sell first offers to the highest bidder because of course such rarities are an investment to suitably capable cultivators. This is a huge learning curve for Enoch and if he is succesful then there is a strong possibility he can extend his contacts throughour the PNG mainland so that cultivators can acquire a whole new world of interest. Already Enoch has contacts on the mainland that are reporting ripening hydnophyte seed. It is important to understand that Enoch has very very limited capital to build this venture. Currently communication to Enoch is only through Facebook. I suggest Facebook's "Ant-plant Cultivation" https://www.facebook.com/groups/1498448190449446/about/ as the best site for communication with Enoch Bulunamur but Epiphytic Myrecophyte Images https://www.facebook.com/groups/498723016920977/ offers the best site regarding accurate information regarding the various taxa. There is risk in importing seed thus it is best that it be in the hands of very capable cultivators that also ensure Enoch has the best means of getting such seed to their destination in viable condition.
  8. Squamellaria wilsonii

    S.wilsonii was sunk by Jebb (1991) into S. imberbis. However, a 2016 Squamellaria revision by Chomicki et al., used morphology and molecular phylogenetics to re-seperate the two species. Therefore, S. wilsonii is now considered to be the species endemic to Taveuni island while the somewhat similar looking S.imberbis is endemic only to nearby Vanua Levu island. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0151317
  9. Ensure that you scroll to the paper's end to see the domatia structures. Also, note that the taxonomy used raises some interesting questions.
  10. These plants were in shade and too far away for my fill in flash to help. It formed a guild with my possible H.moseleyanum and Dischidia nummularia.
  11. Mounting of ant plants

    I wonder if a small transparent container can be mounted above plants so that after suitably periodic fillings, nutrient containing water can slowly percolate down to the region between tuber bases and their mounts and/or basal root systems. The outlet from the water reservoir might merely be one or more small holes that permits a suitably slow flow down the mount surface, or a wick or even a combinations of both. Evening watering may help. From seeing hydnophytes respond positively and very rapidly to brief evening/night showers on Cape York Peninsula in the long dry season, it seems that hydnophyte roots are very efficient in regards to absorbing rainfall. Certainly root growth in the above plants is not natural.
  12. Here are the only two reports of pink fruits found in M.beccarii that I have been able to find. "Widespread both in and out of rainforest. Flowers white, fruit pink. [seed sample taken, seeds lab. 11 Oct 1976. Pollen, NSW, 28 Oct 1976." Collected by a C. H. Gittens, in the Kutini Payamu (Iron Range) National Park Region, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia. Ripe fruits quickly dry to a brown colour, so it is now impossible to check the accuracy of this claim. However, I strongly suspect it is an error. M.tuberosa also occurs in this region and its fruits have been described as pink. However, I consider them more translucent red than pink. Therefore, I suspect that M.tuberosa fruits have been inadvertently matched to a M.beccarii specimen. http://biocache.ala.org.au/occurrences/b77cae0e-e22e-4a27-9458-72bb098d2c00. Here is another claim of pink fruits in M.beccarii. http://biocache.ala.org.au/occurrences/ec05ac5c-37a3-482b-a841-f7f450edeffe "Cairns Inlet. Back mangrove, on Rhizophora. Leaves fleshy, midgreen (sic). Flowers white. Fruits pink, seeds 3. Photos with specimen at BRI. This is a collection made by Dr Camilla Huxley during her early ant-plant studies. That both dates are in 1976 may also be a revealing coincidence. I have examined numerous populations including those on Rhizophora not only along Cairns Inlet, but in numerous other sites for hundreds of kilometers along the Queensland coast. I have yet to see a single pink fruit. See xerophilia.ro for a pictorial series of M.beccarii And see M.beccarii growing on Rhizophora stilted mangroves on Trinity (Cairns) Inlet http://myrmecodia.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/157-myrmecodia-beccarii-northern-form-near-cairns-north-queensland-australia/ In summation, I strongly suspect there are no populations or even single plants with pink fruits, but my health allowing, I intend to check more populations.
  13. This quite unusual and large specimen was photographed on a Pandanus tree in a small area of somewhat savanna-like grasslands. Much of the 'natural' vegetation still extant along this road is regrowth rain forest. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandanus The specimen formed a guild with a Myrmecodia species and ubiquitous Dischidia nummularia. Location was along the unsealed road along the northern edge of Milne Bay from Alotau to East Cape near the tip of the Papuan Peninsula. Note the 'bubbled' growth.
  14. Correct name Dischidia pectenoides H. Pearson published in the Journal of the Linnean Society, Botany, vol.35, p377, (1902.) http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/335444#page/392/mode/1up
  15. from the Ant Gardens chapter by Bert Holldobler & Edward O. Wilson in their fascinating book "Journey of the ants". "ant gardens, which constitute the most complex and sophisticated of all symbioses between ants and flowering plants." Its a short but highly interesting read. See, http://www.primitivism.com/ant-gardens.htm Link now fixed. To say "in these structure the plants possess no adaptation" is quite wrong. Indeed, such plants have evolved very sophisticated methods of manipulating ants but as I have already explained, this is not necessarily obvious in gross plant forms. For example how do you expect to see the ant manipulative pheromones that the seeds of dedicated ant garden plants posses. Furthermore, some ant garden plant seed resembles the shape but not the colour (vision is not important to ants) of ant pupae which allied with their pheromones induce the ants to take the seed into their ant carton nests where they may germinate. Furthermore, obligate ant garden plant species may have specific adaptations to their rather specialised habitats but I am not ware of studies that inquire into this particular question. Furthermore. the quote above surely answers the question of whether dedicated ant garden plant species are myrmecophytic.