Is your plant getting leaves that stick? If you can't see any pests on the stem, under or on the foliage, then the cause could be extrafloral nectaries! Discover why plants produce nectar and how to deal with it.
What are extrafloral nectaries?
If you notice that your plant is sticky, this could indicate the presence of extrafloral nectaries. Extrafloral nectaries are specialized glands produced by plants to secrete sweet nectar. Unlike the nectaries in flowers, which attract bees and other pollinators, extrafloral nectaries serve to attract ants, ladybugs, and other insects that serve as natural enemies of pests. These special nectaries are located outside the flower: they are often found on or under leaves and petioles.
Why does your plant produce this nectar?
Plants are masters of adaptation, and extrafloral nectaries are an example of this. The production of sweet nectar attracts beneficial insects - these defend the plant against pests such as aphids and caterpillars. The beneficial insects such as ants and ladybirds eat the pests or drive them away, thereby protecting the plant. In this way, both the plant and the insects benefit from this relationship - so it is a symbiosis.
That's how you can tell
The extrafloral nectaries are not always easy to recognize as they can vary depending on the plant species and variety. However, they are often visible as small, shiny dots or drops on the leaves or stems. The nectar itself usually has a consistency like honey. Among houseplants, philodendrons, alocasias and cacti are known to often develop extrafloral nectaries.
What can you do about it?
If the sticky leaves on your plants are due to extrafloral nectaries, there is usually no reason to worry - it will not harm your plant! However, if the sticking bothers you, you can gently wipe your plant with water or take a gentle shower to remove the nectar. Overall, plants with extrafloral nectaries are a fascinating example of the interactions in nature and the adaptability of plants.
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