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Ant-house Plant

Myrmecodia beccarii


Epiphytic plant on Grey mangroves. The spikey swollen stems were approx 20cms in diameter. Has symbiotic relationship with the Golden Ant. See notes below.


In mangrove intertidal zone, near Cairns Airport QLD


Interesting notes from Wikipedia: Myrmecodia beccarii, Ant-house Plant, is an epiphytic plant on Melaleuca trees and others with spongy bark in the wetlands and mangroves of tropical north Queensland, Australia from Cooktown to Mission Beach. The prickly, swollen stems develop natural hollows which are invaded by the Golden Ant (Iridomyrmex cordatus) in a symbiotic arrangement. The ants patrol the plant, removing leaf-eaters, while their excreta is absorbed by the plant for nutrition.[1] The flowers are white and tubular, to 10 mm, and the fruit is white/translucent containing a single seed. These seeds are transported to other trees by the Mistletoebird (Dicaeum hirundinaceum). The Apollo Jewel Butterfly (Hypochrysops apollo apollo) lays its eggs on the plant, and because they smell like ant's eggs, the ants carry the eggs inside the plant, where they develop to the butterfly stage. Hypochrysops is a genus of "Blues", butterflies in the family Lycaenidae, which is notorious for its myrmecophily. Accordingly it is likely that the larvae that hatch from the eggs feed either on food begged from the ants, or on ant larvae, or possibly both. In either event, the butterfly finally emerges and flies off.

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Mark Ridgway
Mark Ridgway 4 years ago

Oh I missed this one. Fantastic relationships. Thanks Andrea (and Derrick!)

DerrickRowe 6 years ago

These fascinating plants and much more of interest can be easily and safely viewed from the Cairns Mangrove boardwalks situated off Airport Avenue, Cairns. (The access car park is on one's left on the only road from the airport. Look for the sign.) Thus one may see these truly weird plants within minutes of landing. I recognise the plants in the above image.

DerrickRowe 6 years ago

The mutualistic ant species is now accepted as Philidris cordatus Smith.
The range for M. beccarii is now recorded from the Iron Range region in Cape York Peninsula to a little north of Townsville, North Queensland, Australia. We hope to prove that a population still exists north of Mapoon high on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula.

Andrea Lim
Spotted by
Andrea Lim

Cairns, QLD, Australia

Spotted on Aug 4, 2013
Submitted on Oct 14, 2013

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