Nearly always when we think of ants we imagine them on the floor; in the corners of the kitchen or scurrying over the small volcano-nest they’ve made in some sandy soil. But they’re in the heights also, and they’ve even elaborated hanging gardens next to which Babylon itself would pale. These ants in their gardens are an example of a most fortunate symbiotic relationship even on their own tiny scale.

The plants that emerge from their nests don’t grow there by accident. The ants themselves collect the seeds and plant them in their nests and then carefully attend to them. Dozens of these epiphytes (plants that grow on another plant without being parasitic) take root in their tropical homes, all while people collect animal dung as a fertilizer.

These beautiful structures are built because life in the rainforest isn’t easy. There’s little free land for the growing of new plants, and anthills are in danger from the wind and rain. The ant’s hanging nest provides a perfect lofty perch for epiphyte cultivation and enhanced protection for the ants.

If ants teach the perfect model of urban mobility, building multi-room palaces and of collaboration, now their hanging gardens invite us to enjoy the beauty and pleasure of their own symbiotic relationship with the world of plants.

*Image: Alan Huett / Flickr

Nearly always when we think of ants we imagine them on the floor; in the corners of the kitchen or scurrying over the small volcano-nest they’ve made in some sandy soil. But they’re in the heights also, and they’ve even elaborated hanging gardens next to which Babylon itself would pale. These ants in their gardens are an example of a most fortunate symbiotic relationship even on their own tiny scale.

The plants that emerge from their nests don’t grow there by accident. The ants themselves collect the seeds and plant them in their nests and then carefully attend to them. Dozens of these epiphytes (plants that grow on another plant without being parasitic) take root in their tropical homes, all while people collect animal dung as a fertilizer.

These beautiful structures are built because life in the rainforest isn’t easy. There’s little free land for the growing of new plants, and anthills are in danger from the wind and rain. The ant’s hanging nest provides a perfect lofty perch for epiphyte cultivation and enhanced protection for the ants.

If ants teach the perfect model of urban mobility, building multi-room palaces and of collaboration, now their hanging gardens invite us to enjoy the beauty and pleasure of their own symbiotic relationship with the world of plants.

*Image: Alan Huett / Flickr

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