Ants and Peonies

From the photo archives:

You have probably heard all about the relationship of ants and peony flower buds.

Peonies (Paeonia sp.) are small perennial shrubs that produce large, lovely flowers in the spring.  The flower buds produce nectar via extrafloral nectaries, which attract ants. The ants chase off potential herbivores until the buds open. A simple story, yet an entire garden mythology has grown up around it. You can do an Internet search for "peony ants" and find a wealth of funny, and at times sad, myths.

But there may be another piece of the story that is rarely mentioned.

Do you know what this plant structure is? (Quit looking at the ant :-))

Since I already mentioned peonies, you can probably guess it is the fruit of a peony. Inside each of those three "pods" are rows of seeds completing development.

As this is not a bud, what is an ant doing there? Take a look at the next few photographs and see what you think.

Mandibles agape...

Do you see the fly?

Has anyone seen this before? Do you know if the extrafloral nectaries are still active? Are ants just poor botanists?

If you want to find out more, try:

B L Bentley. (1977). Extrafloral Nectaries and Protection by Pugnacious Bodyguards. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, Vol. 8: 407 -427.

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