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Epiphytic heathers

Perhaps unexpectedly, the canopies of the moist, cool montane rain forests are home to a plant family also found in our own latitudes, the heathers or Ericaceae. Despite their permanently humid surroundings, like most epiphytes, they have to carefully husband their water. Their leaves are shiny and leathery, and the bases of their trunks often form a tuber-like water reservoir. If you look at the wall of the greenhouse, you can see the swollen trunks of Macleania and other species.

The blossoms of these epiphytic heathers mostly look very different from those found here in Europe. Their corollas are elongated into long, narrow, colorful tubes, mostly in bright shades of red and orange, but often complemented with greens and yellows. In their native habitat, the highland rain forests of Central and South America, these displays attract hummingbirds, the only birds with beaks long and slender enough to reach the flowers‘ coveted nectar. The Ericaceae are just one of many bird-pollinated epiphytes of the American tropics.

Audio file download
Epiphytic heathers (MP3, 487 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Andreas Gröger, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg

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