a publication of Sungei Buloh Nature Park

Vol 8 No 1
Apr 2001

Breathing organs
in mangroves

Bird watching techniques

A place in space:

Bird ringing
in 2000

Gems of the park: volunteers

Our long

Public talks
at the park

of a nature warden
a place
in space

Here are some interesting epiphytes that you can find in Sungei Buloh. Note how 'innovative' epiphytes can be in tackling water and nutrient scarcity; conditions faced as a trade-off for a sunnier 'place in space'.

Dischidia major | symbiosis with ants
This plant has two leaf forms - round fleshy leaf and specialized hollow leaf (hl). Aerial roots (ar) enter through a tiny hole at the base of the hollow leaf as do ants that bring in organic debris that in turn becomes food for the plant. (See cross-section)

Dendrobium crumenatum
(Pigeon Orchid)
| possesses water-storage organ

Orchid roots are coated with a spongy layer called velamen (v).
This layer keeps living root tissues (rt) from drying out (see cross- section). Swollen pseudobulbs (pb) store water for leaner times.

text and illustrations
by joseph lai
conservation officer

Epiphytes are plants that live on other plants. They are not parasites as they use the host plants for support only. Their habitat is often high above in the tree crown (canopy).

About 25,000 species of vascular plants and an unaccounted wealth of spore-bearing mosses, liverworts, algae and lichens, make up the epiphyte flora of the world. Some botanists estimate that canopy-based vascular epiphytes constitute fully one third, perhaps up to 50% of the total vascular flora in some tropical rain forests. Thousands of animals depend on epiphytes for food and shelter.

Scientists are just beginning to unravel the astonishingly rich and intricate ecosystem formed by these canopy-based flora and fauna.

Drynaria quercifolia
(Oak-leaf Fern)
| a natural 'monsoon drain'

Specialized sterile leaves (sl) clasp loosely around branches to catch failing leaf-litter from the surrounding tree canopy, and to funnel rain water and dissolved nutrient to the roots within. The fertile leaves (fl) are very different - much lobed, erect and tall.

Pyrrosia piloselliodes
(Dragon-scale Fern)
| has 'hugging leaves'

Fleshy leaves (fl) keep their undersides tightly in contact with the exposed surface of a coconut trunk to help reduce water loss from their pores through transpiration.

Asplenium nidus

(Bird Nest Fern)
| a natural 'trash basket'

The wide rosette of robust and waxy leaves capture rain water and leaf- litter that falls from the surrounding tree canopy. The cross-section shows the thick water-retaining spongy mass of fine roots (rm).

Hoya verticillata | produces 'paratrooper-seeds'
The seed(s) of this plant has a tuft of long silky hairs (sh) that keeps it floating in the air longer and increase the chance of attaching itself to a branch in the tree canopy to start a new life.

Orchid seed | symbiosis with fungi
The fine filaments (f) of a fungus penetrate the almost foodless (with little or no endosperm) seed, supplying vital food to the embryo (e) for growth. The close symbiosis between orchids and fungi remains intact into maturity.
© Sungei Buloh Nature Park