Epiphytes Adaptations
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Epiphytes Adaptations

Epiphytes are amazing adaptors. They are prime examples of how adaptation leads to survival in an environment where plants are constantly competing for resources. Epiphytes are plants which grow above the ground surface, using other plants or objects for support. They are not rooted in the soil nor are they parasitic (ie they do not directly harm the other plant). By growing on other plants, the epiphytes can reach positions where the light is better or where they can avoid competition for light. Epiphytes are particularly common in some groups of plants, such as ferns, bromeliads (members of the pineapple family, Bromeliaceae) and orchids: over half of the 20,000 species of orchids are epiphytic.

Epiphytes are amazing adaptors. They are prime examples of how adaptation leads to survival in an environment where plants are constantly competing for resources.

Epiphytes are plants which grow above the ground surface, using other plants or objects for support. They are not rooted in the soil nor are they parasitic (ie they do not directly harm the other plant). By growing on other plants, the epiphytes can reach positions where the light is better or where they can avoid competition for light.

Epiphytes are particularly common in some groups of plants, such as ferns, bromeliads (members of the pineapple family, Bromeliaceae) and orchids: over half of the 20,000 species of orchids are epiphytic.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, an epiphyte is "a plant, such as a tropical orchid or a staghorn fern, that grows on another plant upon which it depends for mechanical support but not for nutrients. Also called aerophyte, air plant."

Adaptations: Adaptations are the inherited traits that helps a species survive.

Epiphytes Adaptations                                                             

1. Awesome Design to take Advantage of Fewer Resources: Everything from an epiphyte’s roots to its flowers and fruits are specially designed to help it survive where resources such as water, light and nutrients are scarce. Rainforest canopies are dense with foliage, making it difficult for any new plants to obtain sunlight for photosynthesis. Because epiphytes have adapted to live on the branches of tall trees and vines, they are able to access sunlight that plants on lower levels of a rainforest canopy cannot.

2. Being able to live on other plants also requires specialized roots. Epiphytes have a strong, thick root system that not only allows them to grow on almost anything, but is extremely efficient in absorbing morning mist, rain and moisture from humidity. Unlike most plants that live in soil, epiphytes’ roots obtain nutrients from leaf litter and other debris that accumulate on the branches and vines they live on.

The stems and leaves of epiphytes are also modified. Bromeliads have stiff, upturned leaves that allow pools of water to be stored. Some species of bromeliads can hold up to 2 gallons of water! Other types of modified leaves include our Staghorn fern (Platycerium madagascariense). It has very thick and waxy leaves to retain moisture. Many epiphytes’ stems share similar characteristics.                             

3. Clever and Successful Reproduction Strategies: With so many awesome adaptations, the best part about survival for an organism like an epiphyte is to reproduce! There are so many other plants in a rainforest that getting a pollinator to take notice is a feat in itself.

Epiphytes put large amounts of energy into producing breath-taking blooms, fruit, perfume and nectar to lure pollinators. When pollination is successful, many epiphytes produce mass numbers of seeds that can be transported by wind.

4. Relationships with surrounding organisms: The characteristics of epiphytes allow them to play many roles in their environment. Epiphyte pollinators such as insects, birds and other small animals use epiphytes as a food source. In our Rainforest Dome, our Bananaquits (Coereba flaveola) are constantly checking flowering plants for nectar:

Dead flowers, twigs and leaf litter that accumulate on the roots of epiphytes are a source of nesting material for many of our birds as well.

Source: Rainforests of the World

Useful links:

* Epiphytes - adaptations to an aerial habitat

Epiphyes adaptations at Encyclopedia2. the free dictionary

* Epiphytes - adaptations to an aerial habitat

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Comments (4)

Excellent issue.

Ranked #24 in Biology

Interesting plant species. Orchids are among the best and beautiful examples I suppose.

peace

Who is the author of this information?

Ranked #15 in Biology

The information about this post is collected from various online resources. My job is to compile and present this information as a factoid.

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