We are about to leave the Dutch commercial grower that we were visiting, but first our guide is showing us something else that was totally new to Family Kiwidutch. Our visiting Singaporean friend “Velvetine” is however very knowledgeable because she grows some of these herself: “air plants” or by their proper names: “Epiphytes”
Wikipedia tells me:
An epiphyte is a plant that grows non-parasitically upon another plant (such as a tree), and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and sometimes from debris accumulating around it instead of the structure it is fastened to.
An epiphytic bromeliad: The term epiphytic derives from the Greek epi- (meaning ‘upon’) and phyton (meaning ‘plant’). Epiphytic plants are sometimes called “air plants” because they do not root in soil.
However, there are many aquatic species of algae, including seaweeds, that are epiphytes on other aquatic plants (seaweeds or aquatic angiosperms).
The best-known epiphytic plants include mosses, orchids, and bromeliads such as Spanish moss (of the genus Tillandsia), but epiphytes may be found in every major group of the plant kingdom. 89% of epiphyte species (about 24,000) are flowering plants.
Epiphytic plants use photosynthesis for energy and (where non-aquatic) obtain moisture from the air or from dampness (rain and cloud moisture) on the surface of their hosts. Roots may develop primarily for attachment, and specialized structures (for example, cups and scales) may be used to collect or hold moisture.
This is one of the longest photographic posts I have ever made… but I found all of the photos fascinating and wanted them all in one post. Some of these little plants are tiny, in fact they looked at first like mould on the wall, most of them too are very very slow growing, one of the longer specimens we are shows is over 40 years old. Air plants need very clean air in which to grow, and since they collect nutrients via minuscule amounts of moisture rather than by being parasitic on a “host” plant, they are often difficult to grow. One thing is for certain, these amazing plants must be having an increasing struggle for survival, as mankind pollutes the world’s air more and more.