What is an Epiphyte?

 


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Epiphytic Cacti

Epiphytes

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An epiphyte is a plant that normally grows on another plant for support. It is not parasitic, but uses the host plant for support only.  Epiphytes can be found in many different environments all over the world, but many of the most beautiful come from the tropic rain forests.  Here epiphytic plants can be found high up in the tree canopy, growing from branches, rooting in pockets of  humus, decaying leaves or other organic matter. 

Many different plant families contain epiphytic members, and they are not always found growing epiphytically.  For instance many epiphytes can be found growing on rocks or even in soil, anywhere where the conditions are suitable in fact.  Epiphytes are often found growing in shady conditions, under tree canopies and so on and these are usually adapted to relatively low light levels and many therefore can make good houseplants.  The cactus family for instance contains many epiphytic members and here the stems have become flattened and leaf-like, the spines have been very much reduced and many have become popular in the home such as the Christmas Cacti, Easter Cacti and the Orchid Cacti (epicacti or epiphyllums).