Have You Seen An Epiphyte Lately?


Photo via Flickr.

Epiphytes can be found in unusual places, such as the trunks of trees or cliff sides.  Do you know what an epiphyte is?

Life is all around us and takes different shapes and forms to survive.  There are thousands upon thousands of different kinds of animals from tiny bugs to large moose.  Then there are all the forms of fungi and mushrooms throughout the world.  Another form that life takes are the trees and plants that cover the world.  Epiphytes are a special kind of plant that has a unique strategy to survive.

What Is An Epiphyte?

An epiphyte is a type of plant that lives on another plant or rock.  It does not send roots down to the ground.  Rather, it gets its moisture and nutrients from what collects around it or the air, which is why it is also called an air plant.  They have roots only to hold them in place.

They are not parasitic, which means that they do not harm the plant that they are growing on.


Look at these epiphytes growing on the branch of a tree. Photo via Flickr.

What Kind Of Plant Is An Epiphyte?

Epiphytes are not a certain kind of plant.  Instead they can be many different types.  Most epiphytes are flowering plants, such as the beautiful orchids that people like to buy.  However, they can also be mosses, ferns, lichen and liverworts.

Where Do Epiphytes Grow?

They tend to grow most commonly in rainforests because in order to survive they need to be somewhere that has a lot of moisture in the air.  However, they also can be found in dry forests and even one species survives in the desert.

It is estimated that there are more than 30,000 different kinds of epiphytes in the world.

Epiphytes can be found in the forests of the Rocky Mountains.  The main kind of epiphyte in the dry forests of the Rockies is lichen.

Examples of Epiphytes


Spanish moss. Photo via Flickr.

Spanish Moss, an epiphyte, is actually not a moss, but is a bromeliad.


Look at this beautiful orchid.  Photo via Flickr.