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Crescentia: Epiphyte host trees

Epiphytes, or air plants, don’t directly harm their host trees. Unlike true parasites, they don’t suck water or nutrients from their hosts. Sometimes, though, the sheer weight of epiphytes on a tree can cause branches to break off in a storm. Some trees discourage epiphytes from making themselves at home by chemicals in their bark. For this reason, some trees in the forest can be almost covered in epiphytes, while others nearby have few, if any. In front of you is a specimen of the Calabash Tree, Crescentia. Crescentia is an excellent host tree for epiphytes, and this example is covered with orchids. Notice how their roots stretch out along the tree’s branches.

Even smooth bark is no obstacle for epiphytes. The seeds of many epiphytic plants have developed special mechanisms to stick to smooth surfaces. The glass case near the entrance of the orchid house often displays a specimen of the leafless orchid Chilochista. This species has seeds with long adhesive fibres that can’t even be washed off glass.



Audio file download
Crescentia: Epiphyte host trees (MP3, 527 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Günter Gerlach, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg