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ant gardens
A cluster of epiphytic plants inhabited by ant colonies, which benefit from the association.

Epiphytes are plants: such as, a tropical orchid or a staghorn fern, that grows on another plant upon which it depends for mechanical support but not for nutrients. They are also called aerophytes or "air plants".

One of the most complex mutualisms between plants and ants is the ant garden

To qualify as a true ant garden, the plants must benefit from the ant associations which is an aggregate of epipytes assembled by ants.

The ants bring the seeds of the epiphytes into their carton nests and as the plants grow, nourished by the carton and detritus brought by the ants, their roots become part of the framework of the ant nests.

The ants also feed on the fruit pulp, the elaiosomes (food bodies) of the seeds, and the secretions of the extra-floral nectaries.

—Compiled from excerpts of
"Ant Gardens" located in The Ants by Bert Holldobler and Edward O. Wilson;
The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press;
Cambridge, Massachusetts; 1990; page 546.
This entry is located in the following unit: Ant and Related Entomology Terms (page 2)