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An epiphyte is a plant that grows harmlessly upon another plant (such as a tree) and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and sometimes from debris accumulating around it. Epiphytes differ from parasites in that epiphytes grow on other plants for physical support and do not necessarily negatively affect the host. An epiphytic organism that is not a plant is called an epibiont.[1] Epiphytes are usually found in the temperate zone (e.g., many mosses, liverworts, lichens, and algae) or in the tropics (e.g., many ferns, cacti, orchids, and bromeliads).[2] Many houseplants are epiphyte species due to their minimal water and soil requirements. Epiphytes provide a rich and diverse habitat for other organisms including animals, fungi, bacteria, andmyxomycetes. 


Epiphyte is one of the subdivisions of the Raunkiær system.


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, includingseaweeds, that are epiphytes on other aquatic plants (seaweeds or aquaticangiosperms).

Biodiversity :


The best-known epiphytic plants include mosses, orchids, and bromeliads such asSpanish moss (of the genus Tillandsia), but epiphytes 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.[4] 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.[5]


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.[citation needed]


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 usephotosynthesis 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.




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.


Epiphytes can have a significant effect on the microenvironment of their host, and of ecosystems where they are abundant, as they hold water in the canopy and decrease water input to the soil.[6] The epiphytes create a significantly cooler and moister environment in the host plant canopy, potentially greatly reducing water loss by the host through transpiration.


See also:


-Epiphyllum - a genus of epiphytic cacti

-Parasitic plant

-Epilith, an organism that grows in a rock

-Epibiont, an organism that grows on another life form

-Epiphytic bacteria




References :


  •  Hickey, M.; King, C. (2001). The Cambridge Illustrated Glossary of Botanical Terms. Cambridge University Press.

  • Jump up^ Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged. (1976). Vol. I, p. 764. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Chicago.

  • Jump up^ Sydney E. Everhart, Joseph S. Ely, and Harold W. Keller (2009). "Evaluation of tree canopy epiphytes and bark characteristics associated with the presence of corticolous myxomycetes" (PDF). Botany 87: 509–517. doi:10.1139/b09-027.

  • Jump up^ Hogan, C Michael, 2010. Fern. Encyclopedia of Earth. National council for Science and the Environment. Washington, DC

  • Jump up^ Schuettpelz, Eric (2007), The evolution and diversification of epiphytic ferns (PDF), Duke University PhD thesis

  • Jump up^ Stanton, D.E., Chávez, J.H., Villegas, L., Villasante, F., Armesto, J., Hedin, L.O., Horn, H. "Epiphytes Improve Host Plant Water Use by Microenvironment Modification", Functional Ecology (journal), doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12249










Epiphytes on a Scots Pine in Gorbie Glen Woods, Blair, Dalry

Near Orosí, Costa Rica

A clinging root of an orchid.

An epiphytic bromeliad

Epiphytes on a tree near Santa Elena, Costa Rica

Epiphytes on electric wires. This kind of plant takes both CO2 and water from the atmosphere for living and growing

Virtual Classroom: Epiphytes

Types Of Epiphytes – What Is An Epiphyte Plant And Adaptations Of Epiphytes:


courtesy to : By Bonnie L. Grant

Both tropical and rainforests feature an incredible array of plants. Those that dangle from trees, rocks and vertical supports are called epiphytes. Tree epiphytes are called air plants because they have no firm grip in the earth. This fascinating collection of plants is also fun to grow indoors or out in the garden. Find answers on what is an epiphyte plant so you can introduce this unique form to your indoor or outdoor landscape.


What is an Epiphyte Plant?

The word epiphyte comes from the Greek “epi”, which means “upon” and “phyton”, which means plant. One of the amazing adaptations of epiphytes is their ability to attach to vertical surfaces and capture their water and much of their nutrient needs from sources other than soil.
They may be found on branches, trunks and other structures. While epiphytes may live on other plants, they are not parasites. There are many types of epiphytes, with the majority being found in tropical and cloud forests. They get their moisture from the air but some even live in desert terrain and gather moisture from fog.


Types of Epiphytes

 You might be surprised what plants have the adaptations of epiphytes. Tree epiphytes are usually tropical plants, such as bromeliads, but they may also be cacti, orchids, aroids, lichens, moss and ferns.


In tropical rainforests, giant philodendrons wrap themselves around trees but are still not tethered to the ground. The adaptations of epiphytes allow them to grow and flourish in areas where ground is difficult to reach or already populated by other plants.


Epiphytic plants contribute to a rich ecosystem and provide canopy food and shelter. Not all plants in this group are tree epiphytes. Plants, such as mosses, are epiphytic and may be seen growing on rocks, the sides of houses and other inorganic surfaces.


Adaptations of Epiphytes

 The flora in a rainforest is diverse and thickly populated. The competition for light, air, water, nutrients and space is fierce. Therefore, some plants have evolved to become epiphytes. This habit allows them to take advantage of high spaces and upper story light as well as misty, moisture-laden air. Leaf litter and other organic debris catches in tree crotches and other areas, making nutrient-rich nests for air plants.


Epiphyte Plant Care and Growth

Some plant centers sell epiphytic plants for home gardeners. They need to have a mount in some cases, such as Tillandsia. Affix the plant to a wooden board or cork piece. The plants gather much of their moisture from the air, so place them in moderate light in the bathroom where they can get water from shower steam.

Another commonly grown epiphyte is the bromeliad. These plants are grown in well-drained soil. Water them in the cup at the base of the plant, which is designed to capture moisture out of misty air.

For any epiphytic plant, try to mimic the conditions of its natural habitat. Orchids grow in shredded bark and need average light and moderate moisture. Take care not to overwater epiphytic plants since they supplement their moisture needs from the air. Humid conditions often provide all the moisture a plant will need. You can assist the plant by misting the air around it or putting the pot in a saucer of rocks filled with water.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Types Of Epiphytes – What Is An Epiphyte Plant And Adaptations Of Epiphytes




courtesy to : www.josh frogs .com 


piphytic plants, or those plants that grow without soil (in the traditional sense), have always held a special place in the naturalistic vivarium. Many plants grow as epiphytes, but a few primary groups are commonly encountered in the home vivarium – namely, bromeliads, orchids, and some species of ferns. All of these plants appreciate air flow, a light/no substrate, and high light levels.


This article will discuss the primary ways of mounting epiphytes in a naturalistic vivarium – utilizing net cups built into the background, mounting on the background utilizing bamboo skewers, tying plants onto a surface, and mounting bromeliads using a stolon.


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Utilizing Net Cups Built Into the Background


This is probably the easiest way to plant an epiphyte, but does require some planning. Make sure you incorporate some net cups into the background during construction, as shown here. Taking this extra step early on makes planting the vivarium much easier.



1- Wrap epiphyte base with moss. In this case, the epiphyte is a fern, so care is taken to insure it’s rhizomes (fuzzy roots) are above the substrate.


2- Insert epiphyte into net cup. If moss is not used (bromeliads and orchids prefer a well draining mix, such as ABG mix or tree fern fiber), put substrate into the net cup, then stick in the plant.


Using Bamboo Skewers/toothpicks to Mount an Epiphyte


This technique best works on easily pierced background materials, such as great stuff backgrounds (click here to see how to build one) or tree fern panels.

1- Wrap base of epiphyte in damp sphagnum moss. Stick a bamboo skewer into the background next to the plant at an angle, being careful not to stab the plant or roots.


2-Stick a second bamboo skewer into the background on the other side of the epiphyte so that it intersects the first bamboo skewer, and pins the epiphyte to the background.


3-Cut off excess parts of bamboo skewers, leaving just enough behind to pin the epiphyte to the background.


4-Bamboo skewers should now not be visible. Insure that the plant is securely mounted to the background, and will not fall off.


5-Dress with Josh’s Frogs sheet moss. This greatly improves the appearance vs bare sphagnum moss, in my opinion.


6-Thoroughly mist the epiphyte, and insure that the moss is never allowed to completely dry out. Misting frequency and duration will depend on the type of plant and ventilation in the vivarium.


Tying an Epiphyte to a Surface:


This is handy when attaching an epiphyte to a branch in a naturalistic vivarium. When using this technique, it is important to make sure that there is no slack in the string, and that there are no gaps between the loops that frogs could get tangled in.





1-Form a slip knot with your string of choice. Fishing line works well, as does black cotton thread.


2-Wrap the string around the branch, then bring the loose end through the slip knot, making a loop.


3-Wrap the epiphyte in damp sphagnum moss and place it where you want to mount it, then pull the string tight. Wrap the string around the branch several more times, then tie it off.


4-Cut off excess string. If fishing line is used, remove it a few weeks later, after the epiphyte has rooted to the wood. If black cotton thread is used, it can be ignored as it will eventually rot away in the vivarium.


Mounting a Bromeliad in a Natural Crevice:


Sometimes we get lucky, and a piece of vivarium wood or cork will simply have a natural crack or crevice in just the right spot to place an epiphyte. When Lady Luck smiles upon you in such a fashion, follow the simple steps below.



1-Grab your bromeliad and trim the stolon (the woody stem sticking off the bottom of it) to the proper length. Remember, it’s better to leave it too long and have to trim it again than to cut it too short the first time.


2-Place the stolon in the natural crack or crevice. Push it all the way in, and gently jiggle the plant to insure that it will not fall out.


3-Pack moss (either long fiber sphagnum moss or Josh’s Frogs Sheet Moss) around the base of the bromeliad, to encourage it to root into place.


Mounting a Bromeliad with a Stolon via a Drilled Hole


Sometimes, it is necessary to create a crevice to insert a bromeliad stolon into while planting a vivarium. This method is very similar to the one outlined above.

1- Select a bromeliad with a stolon, and hold it in the vivarium where you’d like it to be mounted. Trim the stolon as necessary, and choose where a hole would best be drilled in order to mount the bromeliad.


2-Using a power drill with a drill bit suitable for use on wood, carefully drill a hole to insert the bromeliad’s stolon into. Take note to drill the hole at the proper angle, and make the hole slightly larger than the stolon.


3-Place the bromeliad stolon into the hole. If the bromeliad does not fit securely, some moss can be added into the drill hole. Alternatively, the bromeliad may be tied into place as outlined above.


Place moss around the base of the bromeliad, to encourage the epiphyte to root into place.


Conclusion :


Epiphytes, including orchids, bromeliads, and some ferns, will always hold a special place in the naturalistic vivarium. Due to their unique growth habits and required growing conditions, initially planting them may seem a bit of a challenge, but by following the various methods outlined above, even the novice vivarium designer can easily incorporate epiphytes into their planting regime.

Another project :


Here is a quick photo update for this thing after the plants have had about a half-a-year to grow in.

I decided to ditch the idea for very shallow water with plants and fish and instead just used a layer of hydroton underneath. I was having a hard time trying to think how to make a water area look right.

Here's a little more plant detail.

Idea : 


Epiphyte Terrarium:


I have a pair of crested geckos that have been through multiple terrarium setups due to different failures. The latest problem was that I used dirt that happened to be infested with fungus gnats (got it at Home Depot) and they quickly infested our whole house. No one was very happy with me to say the least, and I had to take the geckos out and try again. So, this time I'm ditching the dirt completely and I'm hoping I can get a bromeliad dominated terrarium to work


I ordered a ton of cork bark from a seller on Ebay which I hope should get here tomorrow. My first thought was to cover the backand side walls with the cork and use silicne to glue it on, however I'm thinking that planting the larger plants (I have a large anthurium and some bigger broms) on a vertical wall would be quite difficult. So I came up with an idea to make "branches" that I can plant on. That would give the geckos some more climbing stuff too. I attached a mock-up of what I'd like to do. I'm thinking of getting some 1.5 or 2" PVC and a bunch of fittings to make them, and then I can use to cork instead to cover the pipe. If this ends up being what I do, I can't figure out how I'm going to stick the PVC to the wall. I'm thining maybe squirting Great Stuff around the insides of the tubes (would it cure enclosed inside the tubes?) and smearing silicone around the outside. Then I can glue the leftover cork around where the tubes touch the wall.


Anywhoo I tried to post this before with embedded pics and it won't let me, so no pics right now!

DIY Project : 


Courtesy to : www. dendroboard . com 


I have had this idea for 4-5 years. To make a vivarium piece that gives you the impression that a piece of rainforest branch with epiphytes has been cut off and sealed it in a glass box.
There has always been details that have stopped me from finalizing it. Technical shortcomings and the problem of using a real tree branch that would disintegrate rather fast.
All pieces has finally fallen together with materials, technique and ways of working.

The branch is made up of a hollow cork trunk that has been fitted with two water containers (two pieces of 1,5 litre PET-bottles) in the cavity inside. From each of the containers there is a Hygrolon wick that supplies the Hygrolon sheet with a constant addition of fresh water.
Underneath the Hygrolon sheet is plastic sheet that acts as a water barrier to prevent the cork to get wet (and start decaying).
The branch is suspended between the sides of the vivarium. 

The log with its internal water reservoir has been functioning very well.
I had one small outbreak of fungus gnats that affected some of the Lellingerias and a couple of Hymenophyllums. I treated with nematodes and all got back on track.

If it hadn't been for the fungus gnat atack the viv could have come a little bit further. Especially the Hymenophyllums that are slow growers as it is. 

I hope you enjoy!

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