Epiphytes in the upper Amazon rainforest of Peru

Epiphytes are plants, such as tropical orchids, bromeliads, or staghorn ferns, which grow above the ground on other plants and depend on them for mechanical support but not for nutrients. Also called aerophytes, or air plants.

Epiphytes do not root in the soil but grow on other plants while remaining independent of the host plant, thus differing from parasite plants. Although a small number of epiphytes are classified as parasites, they are relatively rare.

An epiphyte manufactures it’s own nutrients by photosynthesis and by capturing, accumulating, and composting organic matter such as dust, dirt, bark, leaves, and excretion from invertebrates and lower vertebrates It captures this with it’s leaves and roots, creating a microenvironment where nutrients and moisture are exchanged.

Most epiphytes grow in the tropical rainforests, cloud forests, or subtropical forests because they require a high humidity and fairly constant temperature. There may be over 300 species of epiphytes in the upper Amazon rainforest of Peru.

Epiphytes play a key role in the rainforest ecosystem by providing nectar, pollen, fruit, and seed, and for their moisture and nutrient retaining properties. Up to half the rainforest canopy’s macronutrients may be contained in epiphytes.

Bill Grimes, Dawn on the Amazon

Epiphytes, Adaptations to an Arial Habitat

Epiphyte, Wikipedia

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