Symbiotic

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I’ve always been told that Peonies and Ants have a symbiotic relationship, but a little research revealed that not all believe this to be true.

What say you, my gardening friends?

41 thoughts on “Symbiotic

    • My peonies bloom beautifully each year, and I’ve always been told that it is because of the ants. I assumed this to be true, but read some dissent to that when doing (a very little bit of) research.
      I did read that the buds secrete a very sweet solution that they ants just love.

  1. Growing up I was told the peonies needed the ants to help open the buds. I always see ants on the peonies but I’ve read that the ants take no part in opening the buds. Still, the ants are always there, so there must be a reason. I have a lot of questions about nature!

  2. I planted a peony last year and later discovered it full of ants. Within a month, it was dead.
    I would love to be able to blame its death on something other than my notoriously brown thumb πŸ˜•

    • Wish I could help you with putting the blame elsewhere, but while not all agree that the ants help, all agree that they don’t hurt.
      However, your problem was probably soil related … or something else besides your brown thumb πŸ™‚
      My peonies have bloomed beautifully for years, ants and all. Of course, they came with the property when I bought it, so I can’t take credit!

      • Thank you for the link. I’ve been reading many articles about peonies lately. Last year I was convinced the plant had actually died. I was surprised today to discover several new shots. I have high hopes it will actually grow this time!

      • That is exciting news! I’ve learned after years of gardening, that some plants just shut down till the right conditions appear, then they thrive. The good thing about bulbs, corms and rhizomes is that they can survive under the soil till those conditions appear. I was amazed to read how long peonies live. Here’s to a better year in your garden, Joanne.

    • Thanks for sharing, Lynn. I still laugh about the first time I brought a bloom inside and saw the ants “marching along the table” just as the article describes. I’ve also found that if I cut the bloom, put it in water, and leave it outside for a day, I can safely bring it inside.
      Another confession: the first time I saw the rather ugly spouts come up out of the ground, I thought it was a weed and whacked it right off! Thank goodness I didn’t dig it up. Not to bright, Laurie πŸ™‚

  3. As a kid, we called them “ant plants.” What the relationship is for, I can’t say, but I’ve never seen a peony without ants. Mine is about two weeks behind yours, and there are no ants yet. I have faith. I think the bush and the flowers are just gorgeous.

    Mine is a gift from my mother, who died in 2011, so it’s particularly special. She lived in a cabin on a mountaintop and had difficulty getting things to grow. She had a few peonies that bloomed, but this one never did, in five years. So she dug it up and brought it to me in Portland. It bloomed the first year in the ground. I’ve dug it up twice since then and kept it with me. Hopefully my peony is now in her final home.

    • That is such a great story, Crystal! I love that your mother’s peony is with you in what we all hope will be the final home for both of you πŸ™‚ I really loved seeing your recent post!

      • Thank you. I also transplanted her irises and her lavender that she dug up from her mountaintop and brought to me in Portland. Last week, the irises put up buds (not open yet) and when I saw them I instantly got tears in my eyes. As sentimental as it is, the flowers make me feel like she is sharing this place with me. πŸ™‚

  4. I grew beautiful peonies in a highly populated ant district in my young mothering years and don’t recall seeing any ants on them. There are peonies in my front garden and no ants here at all. Both plants flowered profusely in season. I never heard of them being called ant flowers before either. πŸ™‚ It’s rather intriguing Laurie – I too shall do some research πŸ™‚ BTW that is an incredible photo!!

    • Thank you so much for commenting on the photo, Pauline. I was really happy with that one!
      I think your comment about no ants is fascinating. Alys said the same thing.
      So, it seems that the ants, at least in the East of North America are just there for the sweet sap. No harm to the flower; much yumminess for the ants!

  5. The ants are just attracted to the sweetness of the plant. I had always heard that they helped open the plants, but it turns out I read some research a few years ago that said that wasn’t true. The ants were just getting the goodies. The flower would open regardless. Aren’t they gorgeous things? Ants or not!

    • So glad you commented, Lisa. I was interested in your take on this.
      It’s been fun to read comments from NZ and California (no ants) but Oregon and the East of North American (ants).
      Either way, they are the most gorgeous flower and I each morning as I leave for work, I stop to watch the progress from bud to bloom.
      The natural / evolutionary aspect is fascinating. Why such a heavy bloom on such a thin stalk?

  6. Fabulous photo! I am gaga over peonies, although I don’t have any space to grow them….

    As others have mentioned, the ants just love the sweet secretions from the peony buds – they also might munch on the plants a little, but usually don’t do much damage.

    • Thanks for adding your experience with peonies. They are rather large, aren’t they?
      I’ve also learned to put a mini trellis by the two plants that I inherited when I bought the place so that the blooms don’t fall straight to the ground.
      The natural / evolutionary aspect is fascinating. Why such a heavy bloom on such a thin stalk?

  7. I know very little about peonies, other than that they are beautiful. Nor do I know much about ants except that they creep me out. We have a problem with carpenter ants. What I DO know, is that I love your photo — ants and all!

    • Oh no, carpenter ants!! Those are devastating. What do you do about them?
      Thanks for the comment about the photo … I was really happy with it.

      • Oh, the ants are an ongoing battle that starts anew this time of year. They want to eat our house. We sprinkle a pesticide around the perimeter of the house every 3 – 4 weeks. Sometimes we have to spray at entry points when they come into the house.

  8. Well, I’ve learned something new today. I’m new to Peony’s. There were some here when I moved in but don’t’ remember them blooming. I think they are ready to now so I will be more observant this year. Thanks for the information.

    • Oh good! Be sure to let me know if you have ants or not. It’s fascinating to me that some peonies have ants and some don’t

  9. What I’d say is, ants are not necessary for blooms. But where I live, most likely to show up where peonies are planted. I still have one in my yard though. I had three at the lake in one bed. Three different colours. I rarely brought them indoors because of the ants. But enjoyed them on the patio table at times. Ant’s are more of an annoyance here then a threat. I don’t let them get established in the garden but we have brick patios and they love the heat and sand. We duke it out all summer long. Any crawly thingies en mass gives me the shivers. I probably would have looked at the peony, then immediately looked down to ensure I wasn’t standing in a hoard of ants. Yikes!

Because Boomdee dared me: Lay a little sugar on me :-)

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