An epiphyte is a plant that grows harmlessly upon another plant (such as a tree) and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and sometimes from debris accumulating around it. Epiphytes differ from parasites in that they grow on other plants for physical support and do not necessarily negatively affect the host. Epiphytes are usually found in the temperate zone (e.g., many mosses, liverworts, lichens, and algae) or in the tropics (e.g., many ferns, cacti, orchids, and bromeliads). Epiphyte species make good houseplants due to their minimal water and soil requirements.
The term epiphytic derives from the Greek epi- (meaning "upon") and phyton (meaning "plant"). Therefore, epiphytic plants are sometimes called "Air Plants" because they do not root in the soil. However, many aquatic species of algae, including seaweeds, 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). Still, epiphytes may be found in every major group of the plant kingdom. 89% of epiphyte species (about 24,000) are flowering plants.
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