Word of the Day: Epiphyte

It’s pronounced like “epic fight” without the “c,” and it means “air plant.” Rather than growing in soil, epiphytic plants grow with their roots attached to tree branches and tree trunks. Many orchids, ferns, bromeliads, and mosses grow as air plants, taking advantage of brighter light above the shaded forest floor.

Firmly attached to a tree branch in a Costa Rican jungle, a Brassavola nodosa orchid, a relative of Cattleyas, grows as an epiphyte. It only uses the tree for support, and is not a parasite, so it does not harm the host tree. The orchid’s roots are exposed to the elements, but they can withstand strong storms and high winds.

Epiphytic orchid

A variety of orchids, mosses, and bromeliads live as epiphytes, crowded on a curved branch high above the ground. Here in a jungle near the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, constant high humidity provides moisture, even when there is little rain in the dormant season.

Epiphytes on tree branch

In the home or office, epiphytic orchids are grown with their roots in bark or moss, which simulates humid rainforest conditions.

Explore posts in the same categories: Dormancy, Misc, Orchids in the Wild, Photos

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One Comment on “Word of the Day: Epiphyte”

  1. Hanley Says:

    when I traveled I saw branches like that in the jungle where there were so many plants! Its hard to believe so many can live on a single branch. It helped me learn also how to better take care of orchids. the roots really need lots of air. thanks for the good pictures