These tiny plants can live for 300 years with the help of their friends the ants
The herb Borderea chouardii is like the Disney heroine of plants. It’s pretty and delicate, it has magic powers, and it lives by itself with only its friendly animal helpers for company. In this case, the magic power is a super-long lifespan, and the animal helpers are three different species of ants.
There are only about 10,000 of these little plants, Ed Yong writes at Discover. They grow in the Pyrenees and have been around since the dinosaurs. And it’s not just the species that’s old — each individual plant lives for about 300 years! So they clearly have learned a thing or two about survival.
Living so isolated in the mountains, though, any species needs a little bit of help. These guys have chosen ants. There are two species of ants that visit them and carry their pollen from plant to plant. And there is an entirely different species of ant that comes by and carries away their seeds, about two-thirds of which get eaten. The plants do have other ways of spreading their seed (basically, growing towards crevices and hoping their fruit drops in). But without the ants, they would be screwed.
So, fingers crossed that the ants make it through climate change and all. Perhaps a plant that lives 300 years can afford to wait a little bit for some other insect to discover the deliciousness of its seeds. But we’d rather not have to find out.
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