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White Spots On My Ant Plant


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I got this ant plant from Andy's a few months ago. When I got it there were little white dots on the largest leaves. It's grown very well since, putting on at least half a dozen new leaves. The white dots never appear on new growth, but I'm starting to notice them on the biggest of the new leaves. Most pests I know of prefer young growing shoots, so I'm not sure what's going on. Is it perhaps like Mangroves which excrete salt on their leaves? Any help is appreciated!

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An image might help; it would certainly give an indication of which family and perhaps species of ant-plant you are referring to but I am guessing it might be a Myrmecodia.  By Andy are you referring to Dr Andreas?  The location of where it was/is being grown will provide possible leads to local pests.

  High salt buildups near any epiphytic plants in habitat is extremely unlikely, possibly impossible; however, having said that it may not be impossible that (very large?) ant colonies could deposit enough nutrient rich decomposing ant-compost in ant-house species or in ant gardens for such events to occur if only very rarely, perhaps in dry seasons.  I doubt if such has ever been scientifically tested.

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I got this ant plant from Andy's a few months ago. When I got it there were little white dots on the largest leaves. It's grown very well since, putting on at least half a dozen new leaves. The white dots never appear on new growth, but I'm starting to notice them on the biggest of the new leaves. Most pests I know of prefer young growing shoots, so I'm not sure what's going on. Is it perhaps like Mangroves which excrete salt on their leaves? Any help is appreciated!

 

As Derrick said, just post a picture here. Even a low-res-pic from a mobile phone might help.

All the best

Andreas

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Hello Subrosa,

From what I see (the pic is a bit small) these are no signs of a pest at all. It's not fully understood, but many Myrmecodias, most likely when humidity in the air is fluctuating a bit too much, produce these "cork-spots". I hope this term is correct in English. In German Language we call these "Verkorkungen".

It's purely cosmetic. No need to worry about.

Most growers have these from time to time.

All the best

Andreas

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If one clicks on Subrosa's thumbnail image you will get a larger size that shows older leaves heavily speckled in tiny white dots. This is something very new to me; never seen in habitat myrmecodias. Perhaps a virus picked up in cultivation; it is nothing like the occasional 'corkiness' dots seen in cultivated  and wild myrmecodias. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

may be it is the problem .

I use for mine , a green plante fertilizer in dilution NPK: 23-5-5 whitout this problem , may be the P and K dose are too strong ?

I have often noticed during my purchases from producers this phenomenon, whereas the individuals from seeds, not boosts, sheets were clean.

but hey maybe I'm wrong

jeff

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John:

There are probably more than one factor that prompts the formation of these corky spots on the leaves of the commonly cultivated epiphytic ant rubiacs (as well as Pachycentria glauca and Dischidia major), but I also associate them with fluctuations in relative humidity, particularly when the dry end of the scale predominates. I suspect that I feed very aggressively compared to others here, but have excellent water quality to flush my growing media several times a week in both Guatemala (RODI source) and the SF Bay Area (distilled and from Hetch Hetchy water system), so cannot say whether nutritional issues might also prompt their formation. What I can say is that I never see them form once ambient humidity and temps stabilize towards high-mid ranges in either greenhouse. Conversely, they are ubiquitous year round in small plants I grow from seed on an upstairs windowsill in centrally heated apartment in California.

J

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Thanks Jay, the plant is definitely subjected to wide swings in RH, as the paludarium it's growing in is open topped. Most days I run a pair of ultrasonic foggers during the daylight hours, but not always. When the  foggers run the entire enclosure is in a cloud. And at night the humidity certainly drops to near ambient conditions, which in the winter is very low. All water that enters the system is either rainwater or RO/DI. I'm planning on a top for the system, but I need to build something that will allow a bit more headspace than simply laying a sheet of glass across it. Oh, and lmk when that arrives. So far I've got 60% germination. Thanks again!

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Andreas:

 

I germinate and grow in pure NZ long-fibered sphagnum and replace it at least every 24 months. Smaller plants grown in 10 cm plastic pots, usually communally, then on to same-size wooden hanging baskets for several months, and so on, upping them gradually towards (ultimately) 45 cm wooden hanging baskets.

 

Base fertilizer as top dressing is Nutricote 16-16-16, six month formulation, supplemented by urea-free 20-20-20+ micros drenches @ 5-10 ml x 3.85 lt water weekly during active growing season and every 15-20 days during winter. I also supplement with magnesium sulphate drenches @ 5 ml x 3.85 lt water every month since my water sources are largely mineral-free. In Guatemala, I also alternate with de-odorized fish emulsion (5-1-1) combined with Kelp extract (0-0-1) drenches at 12 ml x 3.85 lt every several weeks, with excellent results. Sadly, I cannot use this in California since I am growing my collection at a friend's commercial orchid greenhouse and these two products do smell quite odd for a day or two following application.

 

John: if you don't already, I suggest that you install excellent lighting and have a couple computer fans blowing in this paludarium since perma-wet conditions without lengthy dry out will deflate these plants in very short order. High ambient RH is different from being continuously fogged/wet.

 

Good to read. Expect you will get 90-100% germination from that seed batch. Mother plant is starting to mass flower now; quite showy in a way.

 

J

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The enclosure has a footprint of 36" x 36", and lighting is provided by 4 36" T5HO tubes so it's reasonably intense, considering the caudex of the plant is only about 12" below and the plant has grown to within about 4" of the fixture. I have a ceiling fan about 5' away, which provides a lot of air movement in the tank. Plus all water goes off for 12 hours at night, including the irrigation for the green wall the plant is mounted on. The only moisture related issue I've had has been some shrooms and assorted fungi growing out of some of the wood but it's only on 2 pieces on the floor of the land area where water can wick up through the sphagnum. The orchids are all doing wonderfully, and I was able to root 100% of a bunch of Rhododendron cuttings I took last fall, which is by far the best I've done with them. They were actually just a test run for a couple of state endangered/extirpated species Rhodos I have that I want to propagate. And other than the white spots, the Myrmecodia has performed beautifully. The new leaves keep coming in healthy, and the caudex is noticeably bigger in only about 7 months. I know I'll need to add some air movement once I enclose the top, but for right now things are working ok.

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Now that I am living in bio-fortress New Zealand I have limited abilities to cultivate a wide range of ant-plants, hence I am usually reluctant to comment on plant husbandry.  Of course 'myrmecophytes' occur in a range of habitats, so there is no 'one fits all' cultivation system.  However, the species that are somewhat common in horticulture often originate in regions where rainfall patterns vary from monsoonal deluges to enormously drier conditions.  For example, on my last visit to the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea (not to be confused with the more alpine heights of certain hydnophytums), the region was experiencing a four month drought and during El Nino cycles it can become much drier, both there and throughout Indonesia etc (Home of M. tuberosa forms and H. formicarum.)

  Cape York Peninsula in Australia especially towards its northern end experiences up to seven months of quite dry weather annually, as can the lower elevations of Central Province in nearby PNG, which sits in the rain shadow of the high ranges.  Huxley (1978)  has remarked how rubiacious epiphytes with their ant symbioses have been able to survive in very exposed niches where few other epiphytes can. That certainly has been my experience in North Queensland habitats except those of some Myrmecodia beccarii habitats, a species that occurs primarily in Australia's Wet Tropics, a region with a somewhat less wet season outside of the high summer deluges, yet this is very much a littoral species that has to cope with some salinity and coastal winds.

  Dischidia major for example in Cape York often grew in such extremely exposed, high-perched positions frequently on dead branches with zero shade, where even myrmecodias could not survive. 

  Some species such as Myrmecodia platytyrea subsp antoinii can originate from either the Wet Tropics (e.g. the anomalous Mossman population) or from Cape York and I suspect this might effect a specimens ability to cope with overly wet or dry conditions, hence provenance is probably quite important. 

 Epiphytes have zero access to ground water reserves; therefore intervals between rain events can be extremely dehydrating for them, a reason why so many use CAM water wise metabolic pathways.  It follows that plants from these regions do not experience year round wet conditions and are quite able to cope with very regular dry spells but of much shorter periods than those tolerated by desert succulents.  But always with high humidity, something that makes them very different to most desert xerophytes.

Image. Cape York Peninsula in the dry season.  This particular area and most others are far too SEASONALLY dry for epiphytes.

  Thought I should add the upper case word above. In The Wet, enormous areas of the Cape are underwater.

post-3-0-45373600-1398814212_thumb.jpg

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