What is epiphyte?
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What Does epiphyte Mean
The etymology of epiphyte takes us to the scientific Latin epiphytus , which in turn comes from the Greek language: epi- ( "over-" ) and phytón (which translates as "plant" ). The term can also be mentioned as epiphytic , with emphasis on the first letter I .
An epiphytic vegetable is one that develops on another plant , although it does not feed on it. This means that the epiphytes use another species as a support but without parasitizing it in terms of nutrition.
Epiphytic plants can be classified as aerial : their roots are not fixed to the ground, but rather develop in hollows or corners of trees or other types of flora specimens. When the plant begins its life as an epiphyte and later becomes attached to the ground, or when it begins its existence by rooting on the surface and later becomes an epiphyte, it is classified as a hemiepiphyte .
It is important to mention that epiphytic plants carry out photosynthesis . Its roots, on the other hand, capture rainwater and environmental humidity that allow its survival. When growing in the heights, epiphytic plants are usually unattainable for many terrestrial herbivorous animals and are able to survive in closed forests whose trees prevent the arrival of solar rays to the ground.
It is estimated that there are about 25,000 species of epiphytic plants and that their way of life arose on more than one occasion in the evolutionary history of plants. Among the best known are mosses . They are generally found in humid regions and coastal areas. There are mosses that, instead of using other plants as supports, are supported on walls, monuments and other objects.
They are found in trees with gnarled trunks, particularly oak trees. Since mosses do not require great care, they resist extreme situations. In addition, it fulfills functions of great importance for the soil, since it protects it from extreme cold, preserves and increases its porosity and permeability. All of this enriches the soil for other plants.
The largest number of epiphytic plant species is found within the orchid family, where there are more than two dozen genera of tropical epiphytes. One of the aspects of these plants that we can appreciate with the naked eye is their beauty and the diversity of their flowers. With regard to its diet, both water and nutrients, it is not very demanding.
For these reasons, orchids are the favorite of most gardeners around the world. As a curious fact, their pollination systems have considerable complexity.
There are, on the other hand, parasitic plants , which are sometimes confused with epiphytes. Although both develop on top of the other, the former use the substances of their hosts to feed themselves and obtain the nutrients they need, causing problems of varying severity. They do this thanks to its haustorium , a modified root that is injected into the phloem or xylem of the other plant. Currently there are more than four thousand species of parasitic plants that have been cataloged.
Other plants that are also confused with epiphytes are climbers . As in the previous case, this pair has in common the use of a second floor; however, whereas epiphytes live "airborne," climbers originate on land. As they develop, they are placed in a tree to reach the light of the sun and stay away from predators, as well as isolated from excess moisture that would give them direct contact with the ground.