What on earth is this? Obviously it’s a root ball. It’s actually a house plant that I had taken out of a pot and was getting ready to discard because it was too scale infested to keep.
Whenever I lecture on indoor gardening, I always get the question about hitchhiking pests. Usually I tell the story about bringing in the baby bird by accident, and then I say that after that incident, I never really worry about anything else I might bring in. If I find an earth worm or something else in the plant, I am usually delighted and if I find beetles, I just take them outside for the birds.
What you really can’t see here–the camera couldn’t focus well enough–was a colony of tiny ants. They were living in the plant in my house and I never knew it. This happens quite frequently, actually. They never come out of the plant. They make happy little homes–colonies, I suppose–in the root ball of the plant, and I am never the wiser until I go to transplant it.
In this case, the “white dots” you see are what I believe to be the nurse ants. I am not an entomologist by any stretch of the imagination. But these ants were moving the white matter about and were quite perturbed that I was disturbing them.
So, rather than hurling this plant onto the compost heap, I just gently laid it down next to it to give the ants time to disburse and to find a new home outside–and well away from my house.
As it turns out, the compost pile is quite near my shade garden. Perhaps someday, these ants will pollinate some of the native plants there. One can only hope.