Jump to content
Forum for Epiphytic Myrmecophytes

New Myrmecophytic Neotropical Ericaceae, Genus Ceratostema - Amazing Flowers

Recommended Posts

As everyone on who reads this forum will know, ant-plant associations are everywhere around us, but are particularly evident in the tropics. Forum members are also well aware that MANY surprising discoveries in this loose group have turned up of late with - no doubt - many more to come.

A number of Neotropical blueberries (Ericaceae) are currently very popular with exotic plant collectors because of their handsome foliage and beautiful flowers. Recently I discovered that several epiphytic species of the genus Ceratostema from Colombia, Ecuador and Perú also possess well-developed extrafloral nectaries (EFN) on the abaxial surface of their leaves. Since these species also develop large lignotubers, it seems that the perfect match for fat plant collectors of strange caudex and showy flowers has finally popped up in a rather unexpected family.

One Neotropical blueberry species, Disterigma utleyorum, has long known to be an inhabitant of regional ant gardens and is rather infamous among regional botanical collectors for its close association with aggressive ants. A sample herbarium sheet (Wilbur 21706 ) notes, "Epiphytic and growing closely interacting with a large ant colony at its base. The ericad forms a picket fence about the ant colony capped by a 12-15 inch disk of moss." It is fairly widely distributed throughout lower montane cloud forests and foothill wet forests from eastern Costa Rica to northern Ecuador. Sadly for ant plant collectors, it is quite unremarkable in appearance.

I recently noted  conspicuous EFNs on the underleaf surfaces of a couple Ceratostema species that I grow in northern California, and an acquaintance has drawn my attention to a third that he has in collection in southern California. All three species (C. glans, C. sp. inderminate 1, and C. sp. indeterminate 2) are caudex forming and two are now known to produce attractive flowers. The smallest-flowered of the trio, C. glans, has typical corolla shape and color for the genus and is shown below.


It is the other species that I am cultivating here that has - to put it mildly - shocked me with an unexpectedly outrageous, ongoing floral display that certainly awards it the title of "Most glamorous-looking ant plant".

As far as I can determine, this is an undescribed species from an undisclosed locality in cloud forests of the NW Andes with terminal inflorescences and  2.25"/6 cm wax-coated corollas.

I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.




Fortunately for horticulture and unlike hydnophytines, most caudexed Neotropical blueberries will develop normal looking lignotubers from cutting-grown plants with time. I have two legally-imported wild-collected accessions, have rooted a couple small cuts as a trial and will also attempt to set seed next year.




Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Yes, I agree that the lignotuber looks very much like a potato. With age, the lignotubers of quite a few Neotropical Ericaceae can become massive. I have posted an image on my website of a caudex on a wild Macleania insignis the size of a bullock's heart.

Flowers remain in perfect condition for more than three weeks and are quite substantial in weight and substance. A few more opened this week. The black inner tips of the corollas are remarkable.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...
  • 4 months later...

Good afternoon, Aurélien.

Thanks! I am currently working with Juan José Castillo on two equally remarkable new Chamaedorea species from northern Central America as well. It is a shame that Fred Muller's amazing photos of the infructescences were not used in that Phytotaxa article.

None of he heather like Neotropical ericoids are myrmecophytic as far as I am aware. I have several high Andean disterigmas here and they all seem pretty straightforward.

Congratulations on your new displays!

Keep safe,


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Jay,

Good news! I've heard that there's literally dozen of new species of new species in press for Central America. I agree! Fred make really nice pictures.

Ok for info! Even if it's not myrmecophilous, most of these plants are particularly nice.

And thanks for your comment! I've discovered later your tutorial for ant-garden, it's also nice. I've done it with a completely different technique.

The best,

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...