Friday, June 10, 2011

Peony Nursemaids

 Three feet south of the science experiment is one of the peony bushes that was planted by the original owner of my home in 1955 . It is a delicate pink almost white , old-fashioned peony .

Each year when I see the hard green buds swell with potential flowers , I thank life for ants .  Every bud ball getting constant monitoring for size by scout ants . When the balls reach about one inch in diameter , a group of worker ants are called to service .
The ball becomes a globe of activity with ants carefully feeding- or should I more realistically say 'processing'- each seam of overlaping cover leaves . I used to think that they were eating my flowers but examination revealed absolutely no damage to the plant itself .

What I did discover was that they were actually dissolving the sticky seal that keeps the flower-to-be encased in protection until the right time . The ants know that time . The signal is unknown to me . They carefully remove the sealant which allows the densely packed blossom to explode from the capsule . Ants work on the blossom until every leaf edge is clean . During the heat of midday , the plant is swarming with ants collectively working on every bud . Without them , the flowers would fail to free themselves . I would surely suffer for the lack of beautiful , fragrant peonies scenting  the tiny zephyrs that pass through my open windows .

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