Cannomois virgata is the largest member of the cape reed family Restionaceae. Female plants produce a large, nut-like seed with a swollen oily deposit known as an elaiosome. When ripe, the large seeds fall to the floor and are eagerly gathered by ants, which take them to their nests. The ants feed on the oily elaiosome, but discard the rest of the seed. The now ‘planted’ seeds are safely hidden away from rodents and the heat of bush-fires, whose smoke will trigger the seeds germination. This mutually benefiting relationship has evolved over millions of years.
Photographer: Nicholas Wray
Copyright: University of Bristol
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