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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dischidia pectinoides - Kangaroo Pocket, Ant Plant


I saw this strange plant while shopping for Chinese New Year plants. The ant plant (Dischidia pectinoides) is sold as an auspicious plant during the festive season. What's the symbolic meaning behind it? I hope someone can tell me.

At first I was hesitant to buy it because I worry that it will be difficult to care for. Moreover, I do not want it to turn into an ant's nest!

I have since discovered that it is actually quite easy to care for. The flowers bloom continuously.





Scientific name: Dischidia pectinoides
Synonym: Dischidia lanceolata, Dischidia vidalii

Common name: Kangaroo Pocket, Ant Plant

Family: Apocynaceae
Sub-family: Asclepiadaceae
Origin: Philippines
Category: Tropical perennial vine 
Photo taken at: my home garden

Update: My NST article about this plant was published on 5th January 2013, "Auspicious Wealth Wallets".

“Dischidia pectinoides - Kangaroo Pocket, Ant Plant”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ http://www.mynicegarden.com/ on March 22nd, 2012.


Dischidia pectinoides is an epiphytic plant which has a symbiotic relationship with ants. Hence, it is also  known as the Ant Plant.

An epiphyte grows on and depends on another plant for mechanical support but does not need the host plants nutrients.



Some leaves of this cute little climber are balloon like. In its natural habitat in the forest, this pouch serves as a cosy nest for ants in exchange for carbon dioxide.

If you are wondering if this "ant hotel" has attracted any ants from the vicinity of my home garden, well, there are still no takers yet.


Growing requirements:
It prefers bright shade and can be grown as an indoor houseplant. Do over-water. Check that the soil is dry before the next watering. You can use a water sprayer to mist the plant a few times a week. It is an air plant that does not need soil and is usually grown in sea shells as a hanging plant. Apply diluted or half strength fertilizer once a month. Place the fertilizer solution at the base of the plant and let it get a good soak.  Propagation is by stem cuttings.

36 comments:

  1. It's actually very pretty and will be interesting for you to see how it grows this year.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    Replies
    1. It actually grows quite slowly. I mean the leaves are slow to sprout but the vine-like stems grows faster.

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  2. They say it is lucky because the pouches are 'money pouches'. So got money inside. Though I have only gotten ants and creepy-crawlies. They are indeed easy. I had one before (left by a housemate) and it was still scrambling all over despite haven't been watered for more than 6 months. All it gets is the humidity and the occasional drip from the leaky awning roof. When I moved out, it got left behind.

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    Replies
    1. Sean, thank you very much for the solving this puzzle. I have been without an answer to this question "Why is it auspicious?" since I purchased it.

      Delete
  3. Jeszcze nie widziałam rośliny z liści jak balon. Niesamowite, ale dobrze, że nie masz w nim mrówek :-). Roślina jest śliczna. Pozdrawiam.*** I have not seen the plant with leaves like a balloon. Unusual, but good that you do not have ants in it :-). The plant is beautiful. Yours.

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    Replies
    1. Giga, Yes, it is a cutie plant. I'm glad it didn't attract a swarm of ants too!

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  4. Exotic, unique and make a very interesting conversation piece. Like you I hesistate to own this because it is a vine and require much space. Its lushness must be due to your green fingers.

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    Replies
    1. Stiletto, actually I have taken close-up shots which make the plant look big but it is really a small plant. The plastic pot is XS size and plant is only about a foot tall, hence won't take up much space.

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  5. What an unusual plant. I love learning about new plants I've never heard of. Hope it doesn't attract too many ants.

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    Replies
    1. Missy, I too have never heard of nor seen this plant before my purchase. No ants are seen yet.

      Delete
  6. That pouch leaf is so cute! It's like the plant has its own surprise bag...will it be ants or other creepy crawlies? :D You have this amazing ability to root out interesting plants, thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Tanntoot, there was no pouch when I purchased the plant and I didn't even know it was an ant plant. When it grew a pouch, I thought it was something of seed or fruit! So I peep inside to look for seeds but it seems to be hollow or maybe have some kind of sticky things inside. The pouch has a little opening.

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    2. Wow! What a pleasant surprise you must have had :) Mother Nature is really amazing ya.

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  7. I had seen this plant sold fastened in a wooden branch - looking so much like an orchid like exotic - I refrained buying it as it must be challenging.

    The flowers looks very cool in a bud form. Looks so much like St.John Wort berries.

    Only after looking at your description - I realised that it is not that difficult - being an epiphytic plant - it requires more humidity.
    I have been going on a theme on collecting epiphytic plants - right now I'm having button orchids, several hardy orchids, spanish moss and few bromeliads.
    I'm sure to consider having this in my garden - How much did you get it for?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. James, the leaves of this plant looks like your "duit-duit" plant in your Jan 2011 post: http://jamesmissier.blogspot.com/2011/01/something-that-is-called-duit-duit.html.

      I wonder if your duit-duit plant has any flowers?

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    2. James, I missed out on a reply to your question. I forgot how much I paid for the plant at Ah Chui Nursery Sg Buloh. I have seen this plant in many nurseries, also in a nursery operating near entrance to Giant Bandar Bukit Tinggi, Klang. Look out for tiny plants potted inside sea shells.

      Do get it for your garden - doesn't take up much space, don't need much care - can survive on humidity and hardly need watering.

      Delete
    3. Thanks for the info.
      The duit-duit type (button orchid) have flowers - it has a very tiny bell like flowers - like the lily of the valley flowers in clusters.
      They do later turn into seedpods with it seed like "lalang seeds" which is airborne.

      I will look out for this plant. Thanks.

      Delete
  8. Its a pretty plant and have a unique shape of flowers and leaves. This plant look great at your place.

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    Replies
    1. Diana, this plant is small and cute and easy to take care. It is usually grown in sea-shells as a hanging plant. Some gardeners let its long slender stems will climb up a pole.

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  9. I've seen other Dischida varieties or species but haven't seen this one. The pouch is really amusing. I smiled because of the word epiphyte, there are also words going with it like commensals, saprophyte, parasite, mutualism, etc. Sometimes they get confusing, but i always equate epiphyte as airplants.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andrea, this is indeed an airplant. Most nurseries sell them growing in little sea-shells. I don't know why this one is grown in soil. The flower pot is of the smallest size.

      Delete
  10. What a healthy ant-plant, Autumn Belle. I have one growing all over my wrightia, but it's not as lush as yours. Usually the one in nurseries (and mine too) are grown in snail shells.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aaron, I put mine by the window and under the shade of the porch area.

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  11. Autumn Belle, James's button orchid (duit-duit) do have flowers. It is white. If you look carefully at the last pic in his post, you can see a white bud.

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    Replies
    1. Sean, tqvm for pointing this out to me. The duit-duit plant has lovely jade-like foliage. It will be wonderful if it has flowes as well.

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    2. Yeah, like jade coins drooping down the trees. Too bad the flowers are white. On the other hand, perhaps we can say that they are jade and pearl necklaces hanging down from a tree?

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  12. What an unusual and interesting plant, particularly the balloon-like leaves. Cute, too.

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  13. I had this plant while I lived in Florida! So cute!

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  14. Now With All the wonderful words about this gorgeous Ant plant where can I but it most reasonably online? Cannot find it anywhere where I live in Lexington SC. Anyone have any referrals. The more unusual the plant the more I love it. PLMK

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous, perhaps you can ask commenter Mark (above) or Jose (below) where to get this plant?

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  15. Beautiful pictures. I have one adult and about 6 seedlings that survived. They can be propagated via their tiny, feathery airborne seeds (a lot like dandelions). Once the red/pinkish flowers are pollinated they produce these inch-long, enclosed horn-like structures that will literally burst once they are ripe, then blowing their seeds everywhere. Pretty awesome.

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    Replies
    1. Jose, Welcome to MNG! Thank you very much for the valuable information.

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  16. In 1999 I purchased this unusual plant potted in a 3" shell at our local Lowes hardware store. I have the original plant and 'an off spring' that trives in my kitchen, hanging in a south window over the sink. I loved it then and still love to see the beautiful little flower 'buds'. I have given several starts away. Hope those looking for one will find and enjoy it as much as I do.

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    Replies
    1. Ednvon, glad that you share your experience of the plant here. This is much appreciated. Mine blooms continuously and it is fruiting now. I have harvested the seeds, some of which have since germinated. The seedlings are very very tiny.

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    2. How do you start one, from an adult plant ? I have an adult plant from Lowe's too, with several inflated leaves and I want to start a "new" plant for a friend - is that possible? Or is it all done with the seedlings ?

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    3. In Malaysia where it is native, you can propagate by semi-ripe cuttings.

      Delete

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