Many homeowners get worried when they see an odd plant clinging to the side of their tree, but the fear is often unwarranted.

These usually turn out to be epiphytes, plants that requires another plant as a support, but don’t take anything from the host. Many of these interesting plants are rare, and some are even endangered.

Unlike parasitic plants, epiphytes get everything they need from the sun, moisture in the air, and organic matter that falls their way. Spanish moss is an epiphyte, as are many bromeliads and orchids. Some ferns, algae, and lichens are also epiphytic. Epiphytes may live high in the tree canopy or on the trunk of a tree. Many are also found in the lower branches, where they enjoy the shade. Some epiphytic plants can be grown in soil, but require relatively small containers. Others can be grown on driftwood or slabs of bark fiber available from the garden center, and make lovely accents for the patio or porch.

UF/IFAS Publications

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