Definition - What does Epiphyte mean?

An epiphyte is a plant that harmlessly grows upon another plant. They are not to be confused with parasitic plants, however, because an epiphyte obtains all of its nutrients and water from the atmosphere and uses the host plant merely as a way to support its weight.

Parasitic and semi-parasitic plants are not true epiphytes, but many do have epiphytic growing habits.

Epiphytes are often found in more temperate climates and are an important part of ecosystem biodiversity. They provide a rich habitat for other organisms such as animals, insects, and fungi.

An epiphyte may also be informally known as an air plant.

MaximumYield explains Epiphyte

Epiphytes are often called “air plants” because they don’t need to root in soil. There are also aquatic plants that are epiphytes, including many species of algae and some seaweed that grow on another plant and not independently.

Moss is an example of an epiphyte. While it often grows on trees, it does absolutely no harm to the tree and derives its own nutrients independently.

Some of the best-known epiphytes are orchids, bromeliads, and many species of fern. Epiphytes do not get any of their nutrients or water from the host plant; the host plants are simply used as a means of physical support.

Epiphytes are also very efficient growers that use few nutrients. They thrive during the wet season and easily sustain themselves during dryer months.

Epiphytic plants use photosynthesis to obtain energy, and any roots are used solely as a means of support.

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