Saturday, April 10, 2010
Okay Trilliums are not really a ground cover since some grow taller than 18" but it's a layer of foliage not meant to be walked on all the same. A few such as T. cernuum, T. rugelii, and to some extent, T. erectum prefer to hide their flower under the leaves. Well that's not very showy, but simply putting them on a hill side or in an elevated spot so they're more at eye level is the how you get around this.
Later in the year each plant forms a single berry that's filled with seeds. Each seed has a packet of eliasome on it which ants absolutely love. Different Trilliums produce different sized seeds, and different sized ants will be happy to bring the seed home. But only if the ant is the right size for said see. To small and it's treated as a food source, and rather than bringing it home a trail of ants arrives and only takes the eliasome. If the ant is big enough though, there's no need to get the rest of the colony involved. The seed is carried home, or at least a few yards from the parent plant. Assuming the seed makes it into the ant nest, the eliasome is eaten and the seed is discarded as a rock or pebble in the ant nest, often one of the unused tunnels that may cave in over the winter when the ants have gone deeper or moved on entirely. Regardless though, a seed underground is protected from birds, wildfires, seed eating beetles and so on. Plus it's in the best spot a seed could be, underground. The only downside to this relationship is some ant species also eat seeds.
As an afterthought I wonder what happens if the seed is planted to deep into the ant's nest?