Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Myrmecophila tibicinis in Townsville

I had seen this very large specimen plant on my walk into university several times and have been waiting patiently for it to flower to see what it is. Today I took some photos. It is Myrmecophila tibicinis. It is a huge plant. The photo really doesn't do the size justice. It must be quite old. I imagine someone planted it in this tree many years ago and it has simply developed further in the ideal climate.


  1. No seedlings volunteering anywhere? Given enough Australians growing different foreign epiphytic hybrids outdoors, eventually some of them are going to be naturally pollinated. And eventually some of these orchids are going to have seeds that are compatible with the local fungus. So the seedlings will start volunteering on trees. I wonder if some of the local fungus is already compatible. You should sow some foreign epiphyte seeds on some trees and let me know if they germinate.

  2. Hello. I think the likelihood of this is very, very small indeed. Many species are pollinator-specific, and in addition, the successful recruitment from seed is extremely low under normal and favourable conditions. Added to this the mutualist-specificity for successful germination etc... However, with that said, when these conditions are not restrictive, like for example for Disa bracteata (terrestrial species), then yes, it is possible, and this specific species is now a weed in parts of Australia. I reiterate though that this is the exception.

  3. So are you saying that you want me to send you some hummingbirds? It's interesting that nobody, as far as I know, complains about the introduction of honey bees to the Americas. But clearly they are going to have some impact on the supply of flowers. There aren't any native orchids that have evolved to be pollinated by honey bees. But a few can be pollinated by honey bees. These orchids will certainly benefit from the introduction of honey bees. But at what cost? Will these orchids compete limited resources away from orchids that can't be pollinated by honey bees? Will this hurt the population of hummingbirds? So it's a good idea to introduce hummingbirds to Australia? Why not Africa and Asia as well?

    The introduction of honey bees to the Americans won't decrease biodiversity... it will increase it. Same thing if hummingbirds were introduced to Australia, Africa and Asia. Increasing the diversity of the demand for flowers will naturally increase the diversity of the supply of flowers.

    I didn't know that Disa bracteata had naturalized in parts of Australia. I sure wouldn't buy this orchid... would you? My friend gave me Disa uniflora but I killed it. The chances are a lot higher that an introduced terrestrial orchid will result in a net loss of biodiversity than an introduced epiphytic orchid. This is simply because there's far more competition for terrestrial space than epiphytic space. Just like there's more competition for wetter terrestrial space than drier terrestrial space.

    I just read an article about the Opuntia problem in Australia. It didn't mention which native species were lost as a result. It mostly talked about how farmers were hurt by the infestation. Which is rather fascinating because the Opuntia seeds were spread by birds (ie emus). Clearly the native birds wanted a larger supply of Opuntias. Which meant that the birds themselves were also essentially farmers.

    1. Hello again.

      No thanks (on the hummingbirds). I don't understand Why you think the introduction of honey bees to the Americas would benefit a fitness benefit away from some orchids? How would this work? How would this affect hummingbirds?

      Disa bracteata is not a species that people collect usually, or keep for their flowers. This species is drab and small and not a very pretty plant. It is very successful though and was probably introduced accidentally to Australia.

    2. Whenever you spend your money on something, you empower the producer to compete more of society's limited resources away from other producers. For example, whenever you spend your money on orchids you empower the producers to compete more land and labor away from other producers.

      Same concept with the Emus and the Opuntias. By eating the Opuntia fruits and disseminating the seeds, the Emus empowered the producer (the Opuntia) to compete more of nature's limited resources (ie land) away from other producers.

      Same concept with honey bees being introduced to the Americas. By pollinating certain flowers, the bees empower these "relevant" producers to compete more of nature's limited resources away from irrelevant producers.

      We would all be in trouble if supply (resource use) didn't respond/adapt to changes in demand.

      While it's certainly the case that introduced honey bees will empower relevant producers to compete more of nature's limited resources away from irrelevant producers, it isn't the case that the introduction of these bees will result in a net loss of biodiversity. Like I said, increasing the diversity of the flower demand will increase the diversity of the flower supply. This is why hummingbirds should be introduced to Africa, Asia and Australia.

    3. Hi again.

      Thanks for your comments. I am not sure I agree with you though. Ecological processes are not equally weighted.

      Regards, David