Dischidia pectinoides

Most of the leaves on Dischidia pectinoides are small leaves around 3/4 of an inch long by 3/8 on an inch wide, but on occasion they develop these monster ‘Ant Leaves’.  This Dischidia has developed a symbiotic relationship with with ants becoming an evolutionary marvel.  The ants will colonize these giant leaves that form hollow spheres which are inhabited by ants.  In turn the waste products from the ants fertilize the plant.  These clam-shaped, special leaves can be 3.5 inches long by 2.5 inches wide and 2 inches thick which can provide generations of ants with a completely waterproof home.

What can I say about this little plant; when I received Dischidia pectinoides in an Ebay purchase in the spring of 2015, I was kind of dismayed that it appeared to be growing in nothing but sphagnum.  I immediately repotted it into a soil mixture, and then after researching, I found out that moss was its preferred medium.  I then put it back into moss where it has been very happy ever since. Like other Dischidia, Dischidia pectinoides is pollinated extremely easily.  My plant came to me covered with seed pods, and I have had many new flowers produce seedpods with no discernible  pollinator.  The pods burst continually making the plant rather unsightly.  The seeds are very easy to germinate and grow out in sphagnum moss.  Below see the newly germinated seedlings at three weeks of age.  The second photo show the same seedlings at six months of age – note that some are already sporting ‘Ant Leaves’.

In summation, Dischidia pectinoides is an extremely interesting plant to play around with.  It is very easy to grow in damp sphagnum moss, and can be adapted to a variety of conditions.  They are frequently sold in large snail shells as unusual small hanging baskets.  I have only started exploring the possibilities, but look forward to having this plant around for a long time!

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