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New greenhouse in Nancy Botanical Garden (NE France): Interactions animal/plants

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 Hi all,

I hope everyone is safe during these strange times. If you're at home, you'll have time to take care of your plants ;)

As  a professional gardener, I continue to work (our plants still need our attention!), with most my attention devoted to our beloved plants. Ironically, these dramatic times are beneficial for plants... Most of our projects are postponed (including the project of a new house completely dedicated to carnivorous plants...), and we could take time for botany and horticulture.

As many of you are confined at home, I decided to take time this week end to post some pictures I've taken last week. I would like to show the result of a big project recently finished... Due to the theme, I hope you'll like it!

The idea of a greenhouse dedicated to animals and plants' interaction is an old dream, and long-term endeavour. But we finally open this house in fall 2018, and I'm quite happy of the result :)
Of course, it's not finished (and it'll never been finished), and I continue to improve it as I can (and the next weeks could be an interesting period for it).

Animal/plants interactions exists since both group of organisms were appeared in Earth, are everywhere and led to remarkable co-evolution. Among many occurring interactions, we choose to present these through tropical ecosystem with these examples:

- Carnivorous plants, and moreover Nepenthes. Nepenthes show really interesting co-evolutions with other organisms (bats, Tupaia, rats, termites, ants, bacteria, frogs, insects larvae, ...). We present also a small tropical peat bog with some Byblis, Drosera and Genlisea, but most carnivorous plants will be presented in another greenhouse, that we previously would like to open in June. I worked most of previous times to another new greenhouse, completely dedicated to carnivorous plants and their habitats. Hopefully we'll open it this fall!

- Ant-plants. With many astonishing interactions, mostly in tropical ecosystems, myrmecophily is a really interesting subject, not too much known. It's sometimes approached in botanical gardens, but, in France, there's no example of such large display dedicated to this theme.

- Pollination. It seems to be evident, but we would like to present it through "nice" examples: pollination by bats, lizards, birds, mice...

- Phytothelmata. Another interesting interaction. For diverse reasons, some plants could accumulate water (or produce liquids). And diverse forms of life could grow in it. Bromeliads, Commelinids, Nepenthes, Bamboo among other.

- Zoochory. Dispersion of plants by animal is an interesting subject. It could be external (exozoochory), internal (endozoochory), with double situation : diploendozoochory (when a carnivore eat a frugivore), and is trully important for long distance dispersal. We know the case of seeds, but it's also important for living plants, i.e. turions of aquatic plants by birds, or Tillandsia usneoides used for bird's nests.

- Herbivory. The most common interaction (even if it's not really for the benefice of plants!). And we choose to show it with "defence" mechanism: sensitive plants, the egg mimicry of Passiflora sect. Decaloba and the pseudo-eaten leaves of some Ficus species, ie. F. politoria from Madagascar.

As we show only plants, and animals are absent from the house, we had put some really showy pictures to illustrate our speech.

And next: pictures!

The entrance of the house with transparent plastic strips, with tropical forest layout printed. And a pergola with Nepenthes, so people enter in a tunnel made by Nepenthes lianas and hanging pitchers ;)

On the left, it's a 1m3 pot with hybrids and cultivars, in aim to have always showy pitchers, and also to fill quickly the pergola. It's work well!


And right, there's only "natural" Nepenthes species in a living Sphagnum bed. Mixed with Amorphophallus species, interesting for pollination features ;)

You could see upper a lateral cork branch filled with living Sphagnum where I grow epiphytic Nepenthes: N. truncata, N. veitchii, N. zakriana in this pic.


Another Nepenthes, and the pictures of well known interactions. I'm happy that we could buy these pictures to Ch'ien Lee, that's really showy! from left to right: Philautus in N. mollis, Tupaia montana in N. lowii, Kerivoula hardwickii in N. hemsleyana.

On the ground: a mix of Nepenthes species, terrestrial orchids and "epiphytic" Utricularia : U. calycifida, U. cornigera, U. nelumbifolia, U. alpina, U. longifolia...


A false tree with epiphytic Nepenthes: N. dactylifera, N. truncata, N. lowii, N. veitchii, N. vogelii, N. chaniana. I've put also N. merrilliana and N. sibuyanensis, even if they aren't epiphytic, cause their long tendrils may be cool at this place :)

You could see also on the left Catopsis berteroniana and on the right Peperomia polystachya (which is supposed to be carnivorous following an recent study...).


I'm a little bit reserved about growing terrestrial Nepenthes in this bed. If some species are looking well, many species die quickly after their introduction, showing decline a few month after plantation. It's interesting to note that the remnant and healthy species are mostly tolerant and easy growers : N. maxima, N. reinwardtiana, N. mirabilis, N. ventricosa, N. holdenii, N. neoguineensis, N. sumagaya, N. barcelonae, N. spectabilis, N. hirsuta, N. surigaoensis, N. albomarginata, N. bongso, N. rafflesiana, N. tomoriana... And many plants which die were "difficult" species: N. platychila, N. insignis, N. copelandii, N. ceciliae, N. hispida...

On the left, you could see the small peat bog (I have to work in it, it's not happy after 1 year and an half of cultivation...), with N. bokorensis, N. gracilis. If I've time I'll take some additional pictures next week!

In the foreground, N. bicalcarata, a nice transition from carnivorous plants to ant-plants.


And now, some ant-plants! (if you are interested by ant-plants, please take a look to the post I made in the ant-plants forum:

Cecropia membranacea, a nice ant-tree. Here with epiphytic Cactaceae Strophocactus witii.


Albeit from a lineage really near Cecropia, the Brazilian Coussapoa dealbata (previously known as Cecropia dealbata) shows no adaptation to myrmecophily. It's used here cause I love this tree (and I cheat a little bit), and also a a support for false neotropic ant-gardens.


At his feet, a clump of Maieta guianensis, a pretty myrmecophilous Melastomataceae rarely seen in cultivation.


Another Melastomataceae from Guyanas : Tococca guianensis. I love particularly this plant and it's actually the most beautiful specimen I'd ever grown...


Acacia cornigera with its nice hollow spines and beltian bodies in its folioles.


Now, bromeliads! With a beautiful specimen of Brocchinia acuminata (this one is not carnivorous, but suspected to be myrmecophilous!)

In the background, nice pictures of Nepenthes bicalcarata by Vincent Bazile in situ in Brunei!


Another false tree made with cork, this branch is totally dedicated to ant associated Tillandsia.


I'm particularly fond of these artificial trees made with hollow cork an a mix of pine bark and living Sphagnum.

Here, I use it to show the high diversity of neotropical ant-gardens.


I've put also two branches dedicated to Hydnophytinae.




They look healthy here, in a sunny place, with high air movement. They grow fastest than in pot in the private greenhouses...

Now, the biggest work of the house: a dripping wall made with volcanic rock. 3 months of work for 3 peoples! But I'm happy about the result!

The first idea was to present myrmecophily on the left, and zoogamy on the right. So, most of the paleotropic ant-plants and asiatic ant-garden plants are here. But it's too wet for them, and it's not representative to have them in a wall. If I could, I'll build another branch in cork for them. Later...


In the right face, I've put many flowering plants. Gesneriaceae, Orchidaceae, Bromeliaceae, Begonia... About 300 species of various groups! The idea is to have a nice wall with high diversity, but also to have all the time some flowering plants. And particularly with interesting features for pollination (birds, lizards...). I grow with some success some carnivorous plants in this wall: the miniature form of Nepenthes maxima, N. northiana, Pinguicula mesophytica, P. cubensis and some Utricularia. I'm a little bit disappointed, I was sure that most Utricularia could grow well in this place, but only a few are still alive, and are not so well adapted... I suppose that I have to incriminate the water quality: it's not always rainwater (we suffer from a really drought period last year, and during all summer, the wall was watered with tapwater), and I use some fertiliser for orchids.




Some orchids are also in a cork branch here:



And the Phytotelmata place! With A huge Alcantarea, Cochliostemma odoratissima, Nepenthes ampullaria, and diverse tank bromeliads.


And the pedagogical boards! I've write the texts and ask many people to get nice pictures of animals living in phytotelmata in situ.

You'll recognize a small crab of the genus Geosesarma in a pitcher of N. ampllaria  above left, the spider Misumenops nepenthicola in N. albomarginata (both pictures by V. Bazile), and bottom right, a Philautus frog emerging from N. x harryana, by Ch'ien Lee.


The place for zoogamy. The text and pictures refers to plants everywhere in the house. It take me so much time to find these picture, but wahou! These are so nice and so demonstrative!

In this picture, you could also see on the left a branch with Vanilla (for zoogamy), and a bird nest build in our greenhouses by a local Turdus with our Tillandsia usneoides (for zoochory)! In the middle, Desmodium incanum, a nice Fabaceae with hooked fruits (very sticky!) that I'd mischievously put right in the middle of the path :p. On the right, several sensitive plants (for "defence" against herbivory). The well known Mimosa pudica, but also M. diplotricha, M. sensitiva, M. polycarpa, M. pigra, M. uncinnata, Biophytum sensitivum and B. sokupii. The hanging liana is Passiflora colinvauxii, also for defence.


Zoochory board:


And "defence" against herbivory board.


That's all folks!

I hope you enjoy this virtual visit during these strange times of lockdown :D

Take care and stay well,
All the best,

Edited by Aurelien
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Amazing and wonderful !! What a project !

I was in Nancy several years ago (Canal du Marne au Rhin) and especially enjoyed the florist's Nepenthes !! But, I did not imagine that hiding away from the main market is a superb Botanical Collection!!

Edited by ewjlamb

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