Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers

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From highlands around Quito, Ecuador.

These epiphytes, or “air plants,” clinging to this tree branch have some interesting adaptations to life in the mountains.  These look like bromeliads, a diverse group of plants that often have overlapping leaves forming a cistern that collects water and detrius for the plant to use.  They are like little water barrels.

Epiphytes are not parasites; they use their roots only to cling to the branch, not to tap into it.  The roots often have fungal associations called mycorrhizae which help with the uptake of minerals.  Epiphytes are found all over the tropics (lowland rainforest and mountains) and some temperate regions; other examples include many orchids and Spanish moss.

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