“I came across a Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) feeding on the fruits of the ant plant, Myrmecordia sp. while I was in Kuching, Malaysia two days ago. One of the most interesting flora there was probably this epiphytic ant plant which can be found in reasonable abundance in the city. The species is likely to be M. tuberosa, which is also found in heath forest of the nearby Bako National Park. In Singapore, the species is already presumed extinct.
“The ant plant has a swollen spiny base with many tunnels that provide a protective nesting site for ants. In return, the wastes left by the ants gave nourishment to the plant.
“I was taking photos of the plant growing on a Yellow Flame (Peltophorum pterocarpum) beside the road when I saw a tiny bird flying to and pecking on the plant. Initially, I thought that it was picking up the ants residing in the plant. But on closer inspection of my photographs back in the hotel, it was holding the plant’s yellow-orange fruit with a red dot at its tip. The red head gave the bird’s identity away as a Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker.”
11th July 2012
Additional notes: The small white flowers arise from depressions along the stem (left). The fruits are soft and fleshy. Ants and birds help spread the seeds. The seeds grow on the bark of old trees, pushing out a short stalk (hypocotyl) bearing a pair of seed leaves (cotyledons). This stalk swells, becoming the tuber. This tuber stores water, thus enabling the plant to grow in exposed locations.