Water worlds

Xaali O'Reilly-Berkeley looks at how bromeliads' water-collecting cavities can create entire ecosystems in miniature

The Biologist 63(6) p12-15

A forest is, by definition, a collection of trees, but there is a whole lot more to plant life in a rainforest. Plants coat every surface, including the trees themselves. Some of these we would see as surface-covering vegetation in temperate environments as well, such as the mosses and liverworts found on stone walls, or the dandelions that poke out between cracks in the concrete. However, in the rainforest, plants that we are far more accustomed to seeing growing in the soil live on other plants. Cacti and ferns, for instance, can be found growing on other plants, as well as aroids (think peace and Easter lilies), bromeliads and orchids.

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