Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Epiphytes on tree near San RamonThis isn't the greatest picture of epiphytes, but at least you can pick them out quite easily. Most pics of the vegetation in Costa Rica are so dense with greenery that it can be difficult to see the individual plants. This tree was in the San Ramon area, just north and west of San Jose. In moister parts of Costa Rica you can see huge trees heavily laden with epiphytes such as orchids and bromeliads. According to a tour guide at the Los Angeles Cloud Forest Reserve, such trees can become so heavily laden with them (and vines) that they fall over.

Epiphytes in cloud forestSo exactly what is an epiphyte? It is a plant that grows on trees. Epiphytes are not parasites; they feed off water and dust and nutrients which accumulate around their roots and on their leaves. According to what we learned on our tour of a coffee farm (more about that later) it is important that mosses grow on the tree trunks because that enables the trunk to have a moist place for the epiphytes to grow.

The epiphytes, treetops and vines create a canopy that preserves the moisture within the forest, and also provides a home for many small animals and insects that live their whole lives in the canopy, never touching the ground. The cloud and Costa Rica rainforest comprise some of the world's most complex ecosystems.

Epiphytes are very common on the trees in Costa Rica. The tree on the left is in a cloud forest.


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