Word of the Day: Lithophyte

Today’s orchid related vocabulary word is lithophyte. Pronounced “LITH-ah-fayht,” it rhymes with “lip-oh-fight.” A lithophythe is a plant that grows attached to rock. Sound like science fiction? Well, just as orchid roots can attach to tree trunks and branches, some can also attach to rocks. Lithophytes may sink their roots into crevices and absorb nutrients from decomposing plant and animal debris, or they may simply attach to the rock surface, and absorb water and nutrients that wash over them. By growing on rocks, lithophytic orchids take advantage of valuable rainforest “real-estate” where most other plants cannot survive.

This photo shows Epidendrum roots growing on the surface of a large rock at Kula Botanical Garden, Kula, Maui, Hawaii. The long white roots attach to the stone surface and anchor the orchid, which is visible at the top of the picture.

Orchid roots attached to rock

In cultivation, many lithophytes are grown in the same manner as epiphytes, potted in bark or moss.

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One Comment on “Word of the Day: Lithophyte”

  1. Hanley Says:

    Ive been to Maui but I haven’t been to that garden. And it’s a cool picture.