The State of Fatsia

False Honey Ants take nectar from the blossoms of Fatsia japonica.

Last month the fatsia alongside the trail on the Dinosaur Trail was blooming and abustle with activity. Insects, such as False Honey Ants, Yellow Jackets, Honey Bees, various flies and other nectar loving late season six-legged creatures were intently gathering the sweet nectar from the plant.

A late bloomer, fatsia attracts many late season insects.

This evergreen shrub is an East Asian species. It’s hardy to zones 7-10 or 8-10 depending upon which source you reference. Here in Durham we’re just about on the line between zones 7 and 8 so whoever is correct in their zonal assertions matters little.

The plant likes shade or dappled sunlight, which is just what it gets on the Dinosaur Trail.

A Yellow Jacket and False Honey Ants enjoy, or at least gather, nectar (11/8).

The fatsia here at the Museum is now forming fruit where once were spherical clusters of flowers. The fruit will turn beep purple then black.

Just beginning to form, the fruit will eventually become black.

The plant can grow to a height of 16 feet in Japan, its namesake (Fatsia japonica). Here, it’s listed as growing 6 – 10 feet tall and equally as wide. But, according to the Clemson Cooperative Extension it may grow to 15 feet under ideal conditions. We’ll have to wait and see whether or not our Dinosaur Trail offers ideal conditions for these Asian transplants. Fatsia japonica is listed as having a moderate to fast growth rate by Clemson. Most of the plants have been on the Dino Trail for about four years now and some stand at 5 feet. The outlook is good.

Oh, one more thing, the fruit is supposedly eaten by birds. I’ve never seen a bird actually gulp down one of the fruit, so I’m going to keep an eye out for this as it ripens. Let me know if you happen to witness this behavior.


3 responses to The State of Fatsia

  1. Wendy says:

    One of your pictures show a Yellow Jacket peacefully nectar-gathering alongside some ants. I’ve read that Yellow Jackets will eat ants – does this picture reveal that they prefer nectar to ants, given the choice?

    • Greg Dodge says:

      The reason that yellow jackets take ants, or any other “meat,” is for their young in the nest who need the protein provided by the meat for their development. You may even see yellow jackets browsing about on your ham sandwich while you have lunch at the picnic table, bite off a chunk and take off with it. The wasp is bringing the meat to the nest.
      Many species of social wasp (communal nesting) do the same. I watched a paper wasp chew off a piece of an already dead caterpillar and bring it to its nest, chew it a bit, then place it in one of the paper cells housing a larva.
      Solitary wasps take it further and bring whole, paralyzed insects and spiders back to a burrow or mud nest and lay eggs on the unfortunate creature so that the larvae that hatch can feast on it when they eventually hatch.
      The adults of all of those wasp species prefer nectar for their own nourishment.

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