World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Epiphytic

Article Id: WHEBN0000276136
Reproduction Date:

Title: Epiphytic  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Hylocereus megalanthus, Ombrotrophic
Collection:
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Epiphytic


An epiphyte is a plant that grows upon another plant (such as a tree) non-parasitically or sometimes upon some other object (such as a building or a

Botanic subdivision

Epiphyte is one of the subdivisions of the Raunkiær system. The term most commonly refers to higher plants, but epiphytic bacteria, fungi (epiphytic fungi), algae (aerophytic or subaerial algae), lichens, mosses, and ferns exist as well. The term epiphytic derives from the Greek epi- (meaning 'upon') and phyton (meaning 'plant'). Epiphytic plants are sometimes called "air plants" because they do not root in soil. However, there are many aquatic species of algae, including seaweeds, that are epiphytes on other aquatic plants (seaweeds or aquatic angiosperms).

The best-known epiphytic plants include mosses, orchids, and bromeliads such as Spanish moss (of the genus Tillandsia), but epiphytic plants may be found in every major group of the plant kingdom. 89% of epiphyte species (about 24,000) are flowering plants. The second largest group are the leptosporangiate ferns, with about 2800 species (10% of epiphytes). In fact, about one third of all ferns are epiphytes.[2] The third largest group is clubmosses, with 190 species, followed by a handful of species in each of the spikemosses, other ferns, Gnetales, and cycads.[3]

Physiognomy

Epiphytic organisms usually derive only physical support and not nutrition from their host, though they may sometimes damage the host. Parasitic and semiparasitic plants growing on other plants (mistletoe is well known) are not "true" epiphytes (a designation usually given to fully autotrophic epiphytes), but are still epiphytic in habit. Plants such as New Zealand species of Griselinia -- which send long roots down towards the soil while fixed high in another plant and reliant upon it for physical support -- are also epiphytic in habit.

Some epiphytic plants are large trees that begin their lives high in the forest canopy. Over decades they send roots down the trunk of a host tree eventually overpowering and replacing it. The strangler fig and the northern rātā (Metrosideros robusta.) of New Zealand are examples of this. Epiphytes that end up as free standing trees are also called hemiepiphytes.

Nutrition

Epiphytic plants use photosynthesis for energy and (where non-aquatic) obtain moisture from the air or from dampness (rain and cloud moisture) on the surface of their hosts. Roots may develop primarily for attachment, and specialized structures (for example, cups and scales) may be used to collect or hold moisture.

Ecology

The first important monograph on epiphytic plant ecology was written by A.F.W. Schimper (Die Epiphytische Vegetation Amerikas, 1888). Assemblages of large epiphytes occur most abundantly in moist tropical forests, but mosses and lichens occur as epiphytes in almost all biomes. In Europe there are no dedicated epiphytic plants using roots, but rich assemblages of mosses and lichens grow on trees in damp areas (mainly the western coastal fringe), and the common polypody fern grows epiphytically along branches. Rarely, grass, small bushes or small trees may grow in suspended soils up trees (typically in a rot-hole).

Epiphytic plants attached to their hosts high in the canopy have an advantage over herbs restricted to the ground where there is less light and herbivores may be more active. Epiphytic plants are also important to certain animals that may live in their water reservoirs, such as some types of frogs and arthropods.

See also

References

External links

  • BBC: Caring for an air plant
  • Lankester Botanical Garden
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 



Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.