Epiphytes Are Unique Plants – Definition & Examples

Epiphytes Are Unique Plants – Definition & Examples

Epiphytes can be found in unusual places, such as the trunks of trees or cliff sides.  Here is the definition of epiphyte and a couple of examples.

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 plants that cover the world.  Those plants are actually the basis for the rest of life since they are able to convert sunlight to energy.  One unique type of plant are epiphytes.


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.

Generally, 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 a non-flowering plant, such as mosses, ferns, lichen and liverworts.  All of those reproduce with spores.

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 there is even one species that lives 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.

There are orchids throughout the world.  Many grow on the ground and others are epiphytes.


The main type of epiphyte that can be found in the Rocky Mountains is lichens.  There are numerous species of epiphytic lichens.  There are three main types of lichens -crusty, leafy, and shrubby.  The lichen in the above picture is a type of leafy lichen.

Scientists in the Rockies are actually beginning to study the lichens and use them as an indicator of how polluted the air is.

The post Epiphytes Are Unique Plants – Definition & Examples appeared first on Jake's Nature Blog.

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