New England Wildflowers - KP McFarland
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Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) seeds with eliosomes.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) seeds with eliosomes.

Many spring ephemeral wildflowers like Bloodroot rely on myrmecochory — seed dispersal by ants. The seeds of spring ephemerals bear fatty external appendages called eliaosomes (white worm like material attached to these seeds). Ants harvest and carry them back to their nests and eat them. The unharmed seeds are thrown into the trash bin and eventually germinate. A single ant colony may collect as many as a thousand seeds over a season. Unlike seeds dispersed by birds or wind, on average, a seed is only carried about two meters from the parent plant. With such short distance dispersal, forest fragmentation is a threat to the survival of spring ephemerals. Once these plants are gone from the forest, it is rare that they return.

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