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Tenerife epiphytes grow in Canary Islands palm trees

Easy To Grow Air Plants / My Air Plant Tillandsia Collection care tips and tricks for happy Plants

Plants and trees that grow in trees

Although Tenerife in the Canary Islands is known for its hot and sunny weather, it also has a lot of moist air and rainfall in some parts, especially in winter and early spring, and this is ideal for plants that grow as epiphytes on the trunks of palm trees. An epiphyte is any species of plant that grows without its roots in the ground below but which has gained a foothold in a tree, either in a fork between branches, in a crack in the bark or elsewhere. These epiphytic plant species can really add an interesting visual appeal to their host trees.

Air plants are also great to grow in indoor gardens and terrariums. They make a great talking point. Some people like to collect air plants and house their collections in greenhouses, conservatories and in aerial gardens.

Epiphytes that grow in Tenerife

Fern (Davallia canariensis) growing as an epiphyte

Fern (Davallia canariensis) growing as an epiphyte

Air Carnation (Tillandsia aeranthos)

Air Carnation (Tillandsia aeranthos)

Australian Umbrella Tree growing in a palm tree

Australian Umbrella Tree growing in a palm tree

Epiphytes on a palm

Epiphytes on a palm

Tree in a wall in La Laguna

Tree in a wall in La Laguna

Canary Date Palm

In Tenerife the large native palms known as the Canary Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis) are ideal for such plants because the trees have fibre around them in the spaces between the old palm frond stubs and in this humus and dirt can build up.

If seeds land in such places carried there by the wind or dropped by birds then it is possible for them to germinate and start growing.

Epiphytes are not parasites because they do not draw any of their sustenance from their hosts but depend on trapped leaf mould and other dirt and they get the water they need from the air and when it rains.

Some really specialised species are known as "Air Plants" and there are many Tillandsia species in the Bromeliad family that grow like this.

One of these, the Air Carnation (Tillandsia aeranthos) is often grown on Tenerife although it is not native to the island. It is commonly seen in parts of the north of the island, and will often form large clumps in the humid air.

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The plant is often sold in sprigs at flower and plant stalls and it is often grown on walls and on houses as well as up in trees.

There are many species of plant that only grow as epiphytes although these are not generally from the Canary Islands, however, very many other species including weeds and wild flowers, ferns and mosses will all grow in this fashion.

Sometimes another species of tree or a bush will end up germinating high above ground and growing out of the trunk of a palm tree.

Endemic Houseleeks (Aeonium species) and Sowthistles (Sonchus species) also often grow on the roofs of houses and other buildings, especially in the north of the island where it gets more rainfall and more cloud.

There are various epiphytic tropical cacti such as the Orchid Cactus (Epiphyllum species) and the Queen of the Night (Selenicereus species) that will grow in trees or also scrambling over rocks and walls.

These cacti have the most beautiful flowers and are grown for ornamental purposes and sometimes get deliberately planted on palm trunks.

It is really fascinating looking at all the variety of plants that can be found growing on the palms of Tenerife and the epiphytes create an unusual sight growing high above and in some cases surrounding the upper reaches of a tree trunk or hanging down in trailing bunches.

La Laguna, the university city of Tenerife, in the north of the island is a great location for spotting epiphytes and it also has many examples of plants growing on the buildings, including a tree that grows right out of a wall.

Caring for Tillandsias

© 2009 Steve Andrews


Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on September 11, 2009:

Indeed, it does look like one - Xmas is all year round in La Laguna! lol

madiera on September 11, 2009:

you could be forgiven for thinking someone had stuck an xmas tree on the wall in La Laguna!

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