Thursday, December 8, 2011
Ants and Ant Plants
Last week friends and I visited Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor. Carol had sent an article she found about ant plants. Ant plants have a symbiotic relationship with the trees they grow on. As we were paying our entry, I told the woman we were there to visit the ant plants. She said we were in luck as the man who donated the plants was in the conservatory. Carol spotted one of the plants right away high in a tree. We wandered happily through the gardens, taking pictures and enjoying the beauty of nature collected at Matthaei. Pineapples & Pincushions is on display through January 8, showcasing patterns in nature. You can pick up a frame on a stick to help children focus on repeated displays. For math detectives - Fibonacci numbers are involved. Christmas trees were decorated with cactus slices, wood pieces, and pressed Queen Anne's Lace. Poinsettiias nestled close in the shape of a tree. As we walked back to the front a man on a ladder was putting a piece of wood up in a tree. I asked "are you Frank?" He said yes, and traded us a tour for carrying the tools back to the workroom. Frank Omilian is a retired biology teacher whose passion is ant plants. He donated some of his collection to the botanical gardens. Matthaei accepted the donation on condition that the plants survive a year in the greenhouse, which they did. The slugs eat the leaves on some of the plants, but a copper nail behind the installation keeps them away. Good tip for gardeners! In the workroom, we were able to see some of the ants when Frank tapped on a plant. Tiny and fast, I did not get a good picture. A beautiful magical day shared with nature, ants and friends. Do visit your local botanical gardens this holiday season. Susan said she'd bring her grandchildren; it's a lovely place to share an afternoon with children and greenery, and an inspiration for artists with lots of beads and wire.