That’s what epiphyte means in Greek (epi=upon, phyte=plant) and that’s what an epiphyte is: a plant upon a plant.
I never thought about this word until I saw some interesting epiphytes in the forest while visiting my family in southeastern Virginia.
True epiphytes are sometimes called air plants because they collect their water and nutrients from rainfall, mist, dust and the surrounding air. Though they’re held aloft by a host plant they aren’t parasites and never directly harm their host.
We normally think of epiphytes as tropical plants like the red orchid pictured above, but all kinds of plants-upon-plants grow wherever there’s enough humidity or rainfall and clean air.
Mosses, lichens and ferns are the epiphytes I usually see in Pennsylvania. They seem almost boring because I’m so used to them.
Do you have interesting epiphytes where you live?
(photos via Wikimedia Commons. Click on each photo to see the originals)