Epiphytes: Air Plants, Orchids, Ferns, etc. (Brazil, Part I)

What are epiphytes? Here is Wikipedia's definition: "An epiphyte is a plant that grows non-parasitically upon another plant (such as a tree), and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and sometimes from debris accumulating around it instead of the structure it is fastened to." Also, they are cool and often beautiful.

If you've visitied Acorn, you know that we have lots of air plants (or Tilandsias) to choose from, in various shapes and sizes. There must be thousands of different kinds. Although they do very well here, if watered regularly, they don't really belong in our climate and you won't find any growing in the wild nearby. 

However, on a recent trip to Brazil, I got to see many kinds of epiphytes - Tilandsias, including Spanish Moss, Orchids, Staghorn Ferns, and others, even epiphytic cactus -  growing with wild abandon on trees and even stumps, just about everywhere I went. Some of these were probably placed just so, such as on the grounds of a beautiful hotel. I'm sure most grew spontaneously when a seed was dropped into the crevice of a tree truck by a bird or the wind. In either case, they seem to flourish all on their own with virtually no attention or interest from any gardeners. In some cases, the trees are so covered in a cloak of epiphytes that they look like big, shaggy, benevolent beasts out of a fairy tale.

We have a lot of these types of plants at Acorn (trees not included). With a little imagination, you can create a mini jungle paradise of your own.

Jardim Botanica, Rio de Janeiro: two huge trees covered in several kinds of epiphytes, including Spanish Moss, large orchids and even a philodendron

Street Tree in Curitiba, Brazil: covered in tilandsias, ferns and lichens

Hotel das Cataratas, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil: tree trunk adorned with a large Staghorn Fern, various other ferns, epiphyllum and lichens

Bird Sanctuary, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil: Spanish Moss (Tilandsia usneoides) dripping gracefully from a branch

Bird Sanctuary, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil: Orchids and Rhipsalis (a succulent type of epiphyte), draped on a stump

Hotel das Cataratas, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil: some type of cactus epiphyte wrapping itself around a tree branch, snakelike

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: a Chorisia speciosa or Silk Floss Tree (with its magnificent thorns) playing host to a tilandsia in bloom

Street Tree, Curitiba, Brazil: tilandsias, ferns and lichens cohabitating peacefully on a tree branch; we have these same types of tilandsias at Acorn.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: the drama of an uplit tree at night when covered with festive Rhipsalis streamers