Up A Tree

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.

Phalaenopsis blooming in treeCattleya blooming in a treePhalaenopsis plant with roots attached to tree

Oncidium hybrid blooming in treeWhite and purple Cattleyas blooming in treeCattleya hybrids in tree

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.

Phalaenopsis attached under branch with roots growing upWhite orchid roots hanging in the airOrchids attached to tree with old flower spikes hanging down

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.

Explore posts in the same categories: Botanical Gardens, Orchids in the Wild, Photos

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6 Comments on “Up A Tree”

  1. nancy Says:

    your pics really give me a great perspective about orchids and how they really grow. imagine how they manage to bloom when theire roots are cramped in a tiny pot rather than allowed to fly free in the wind.

  2. Laura H Says:

    Thanks for the great pics!

  3. Hanley Says:

    Very interesting. I like that you can really see the roots and how they grow. I wonder how they stay attached they must have a very strong grip.

  4. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » Repotting Says:

    […] When repotting, keep in mind how orchids grow in the wild as epiphytes, or air plants. […]

  5. MRR Says:

    thanks for the cool post

  6. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » Stream Orchid Says:

    […] Also known as the False Ladyslipper, the Stream Orchid is not an air plant. It’s a terrestrial orchid that lives in moist soils along streams, on cliff faces, and in mountain bogs […]