An epiphyte is a plant that grows on another plant... so what would we call a plant that grows on a shoe???
The French artist and designer Christophe Guinet has been exploring the use of plant materials to create the most beautiful Nike shoes that I have ever seen!
This interesting work is undoubtedly painfully slow but I think the results really do reflect the delicacy of a small orchid on a host tree or the interwoven communities of moss and ferns amongst flaky tree bark.
If you used epiphytic species and kept the shoe in the right environment, you might even be able to keep them alive... maybe moss and Bulbophyllum pygmaeum?
To see more, check out Christophe's website: www.epiphytegarden.com
Fancy a fix of New Zealand canopy flora? Here a few websites that share quality information on epiphytes, vines, mistletoes and more:
The New Zealand Plant Conservation Network is a great source of information and photos of native and exotic plants. Running since 2003, this network has many databases, tools and online features that help people to conserve our native plants. The network has 600 members across the world but the website is also regularly used by hundreds of non-members. Members work in various ways to protect the unique indigenous plant life of New Zealand.
What is great about NZPCN?
NatureWatch NZ is a recording website for people to share their observations of nature in New Zealand. This includes plants, birds, bugs and everything in between. They are aiming to "build a living record of life in New Zealand that scientists and environmental managers can use to monitor changes in biodiversity, and that anyone can use to learn more about New Zealand's amazing natural history."
What is great about NatureWatch NZ?
This website is run by Landcare Research and is clearly explained on the homepage:
"This site provides access to information on plant taxa that occur in New Zealand. The site combines data from the New Zealand Plant Names Database and the Allan Herbarium Specimen database – providing access to information on the scientific and vernacular names, distribution and collection data, keys, descriptions and images. It currently includes the data for the seed plants, mosses, liverworts, lichens and freshwater algae."
The database can be searched by name, collection, description, image and literature. This is a good site for keeping up with botanical name changes.
Landcare Research also run Ngā Tipu Whakaoranga - Māori Plant Use Database which has fantastic information about traditional plant use.
The Flora of New Zealand is a series of books that have been the key source of botanical information in NZ for many years. However, the sizeable books are out of date so Landcare Research, Te Papa, and NIWA have launched the eflora or "Flora of New Zealand Online". Their goal is "to provide New Zealand with a dynamic, continually updated, electronically-based Flora. It will be based on new systematic research and will bring together information from our network of databases and online resources. Users will have easy access to the most authoritative, accurate, and up to date information on New Zealand plants."
The website has information from the latest Flora of NZ books and is steadily being updated with our latest understandings.
I hope these are useful links. If I've left any key resources out please let me know through the comment function.
Our modern landscape is a patchwork of forest, agriculture and urban land use. We rely on the forests to host and protect the majority of our native epiphyte, vine and mistletoe species. However, there are many opportunities to have these interesting species much closer to our urban homes.
I'm not aware of any formal investigations of people's backyard epiphyte diversity but I know of a few examples where home-owners are passionately growing all sorts of perching plants. The best local example is probably from Mr. Epiphyte Tree himself:
Kristoffer Hylander from Stockholm University and Sileshi Nemomissa from Addis Ababa University undertook a study in Ethiopia to investigate epiphyte populations on native coffee shurbs in home gardens. They found that these native shrubs growing in people's backyards were hosting between 6 and 27 epiphytic species and collectively, they hosted more species and more unique species than did other native trees in the same setting.
I don't think that the Ethiopian situation is mirrored in New Zealand because we can't achieve forest-like humidity in urban centres but I would be interested to hear from anyone who has a good epiphyte load in their home garden, either planted or naturally occurring?
In the meantime, here are a few more pictures of garden epiphytes from around the world:
Greetings and welcome back to the epiphyte blog for 2015! We're going to start the year with some brand new and very interesting research.
Carl Rosier from Rutgers State University of New Jersey led a team on St Catherine’s Island to study throughfall under three scenarios: clear canopy, bare trees and trees laden with Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides). Throughfall is defined as "the part of rainfall or other precipitation which falls to the forest floor from the canopy". The team assessed the differences in precipitation input, ion enrichment, and ion flux in the soils of each scenario.
The researchers found that throughfall water supply diminished with increasing canopy cover, yet the soils received increased Na+ , Cl- , PO4 3-, and SO4 2- from the canopy. The presence of the epiphyte T. usneoides diminished throughfall NO3 - , but enhanced NH4 +. As a result, the upper soil layer had different soil chemistry between the open canopy, tree canopy and epiphyte-laden tree canopy (A, B & C below).
The research article states that "these results suggest that modifications of forest canopy structures are capable of affecting ... soil microbial community structure via throughfall when canopies’ biomass distribution is highly heterogeneous."
Thinking about NZ forests, it certainly isn't hard to believe that the soils in A, B & C (below) would be different. Simplified, epiphytes intercept water and nutrients from the canopy and atmosphere, transform them and deliver them in different quantities and forms to the forest floor. And this all varies depending on the flora and fauna within the epiphyte community... gets ya thinking!
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I work with NZ's native vascular epiphytes at the University of Waikato. I completed an MSc on epiphyte ecology and the shrub epiphyte Griselinia lucida and have recently published the Field Guide to NZ's Epiphytes, Vines & Mistletoes.