If you’re ever in a tropical rainforest, and you’re wondering where the orchids are, look up! After all, most orchids are epiphytes, or air plants, which live in the forest canopy. In the wild, they attach to tree trunks and branches. Roots grow into cracks and crevices of the bark, but they don’t harm the trees. Often the orchids are high up and tough to see, but Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden has lots of spectacular specimens in view.
Orchids share the crowded trees with ferns, bromeliads, vines, mosses, lichens, insects, birds, lizards, and a miraculous variety of other living things. Even when out of bloom, it’s possible to spot orchids by looking for webs of white roots attached to trees or hanging in the air. Rain is usually plentiful, but constant high humidity keeps these roots from drying out if rains are scarce.
These exposed roots help demonstrate how orchids differ from other houseplants. You can clearly see why orchid roots need good air flow and water drainage. Regular potting soil is too dense. Loose mixtures of bark or moss simulate jungle conditions by allowing air and water to pass through. That’s how potted orchids allow us to enjoy some of the rainforest canopy without having to strain our necks.
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