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13 Unique Plants That Grow in Trees

13 Unique Plants That Grow in Trees

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Trees provide a unique habitat for plants to grow, allowing some species to thrive high above the forest floor. 

From parasitic invaders to quirky epiphytes sustaining themselves on mist and dew, arboreal plants exhibit an amazing ability to adapt. 

Read on to discover 13 fascinating plants that grow in trees!

1 – Tillandsia Cyanea

Pink Tillandsia Cyanea

The Tillandsia Cyanea, also known as the Pink Quill Plant, boasts a big pink bloom, is found in Ecuador, and will grow on any tree or plant it can.

Note: Tillandsia is the main genus of air plants, known as epiphytes. 

It has leaves that are folded, and they collect dew or mist. The water then travels to the stem, and it is absorbed at the base of the plant. Because it uses this method, it has no roots, so water and nutrients enter the plant through the scales on the folded leaves.

This plant is medium-sized and grows between 30 and 50 centimeters in width and 18 to 30 centimeters in height. It survives well because its absorption system is so efficient, and it is easy to grow.

2 – Tillandsia Caput-Medusae

Tillandsia Caput-Medusae

This is another epiphyte, but it is less showy than the cyanea. 

Its silver leaves are twisted, similar to the snakes on Medusa’s head. It grows in Mexico and parts of Central America, either alone or in clusters of two to twelve plants.

It is the most common of the bromeliad species. It tends to hang upside down, and ants often live in its pseudo-bulb. 

This plant doesn’t have a stem, and it has bright violet flowers.

3 – Aechmea Fasciata

Aechmea Fasciata

This epiphyte grows in large colonies in forests in Brazil. It grows slowly, and it can reach 30 to 90 centimeters in height with a spread of up to 60 centimeters.

It has silver strakes through its large leaves and a beautiful pink flower spike. It is a monocarpic plant, which means it bears fruit only once in its life.

4 – Puya Laxa

This epiphyte is tough and slow-growing, found mainly in Bolivia. It is an evergreen, and it can grow up to 30 or 40 centimeters tall.

The leaves are long and twisted, and they are covered in a silvery fuzzy wool-like substance. It has small royal purple flowers, but they are difficult to see.

5 – Viscum Album (Mistletoe)

Viscum Album

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows in trees. It grows on woody plants, and it gets its moisture and nutrients from its host.

Branches usually become weak and die when a tree becomes the host to this plant. It is found in North America and Europe on hardwood trees, such as hickory trees, oak trees, red maple trees, and black gum trees.

Mistletoe is an evergreen plant with forked branches and symmetrical green leaves, and it produces little clusters of white berries in the winter. Certain birds, including thrushes, feed on these berries.

6 – Guzmania Lingulata

Guzmania Lingulata Growing On Rocks

This plant grows in Central and South America. It is an epiphyte, growing close to the ground on small trees. It gets all of its water from mist or dew, and it flowers mostly during the beginning of the rainy season. It has fruit that matures later in the year.

It is native to the rainforests and has small roots that function only to attach it to the tree. It has a star-shaped flower that can be yellow, orange, mauve, or lavender.

7 – Strepsia Usneoides

Strepsia Usneoides

This epiphyte is a relative of the pineapple, and It grows throughout the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and South America. It resembles lichens and mosses, but it is not related.

It has festoons that hang from a tree’s branches, and they can grow to between 3-6 meters long. This plant is covered with little shield hairs that absorb water and salts from the rain.

When it is dry, the plant appears to be silver. It has no roots.

8 – Tillandsia Crocata

This epiphyte grows in Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. This plant has silvery green leaves, and it can grow on rocks as well as trees.

It makes clumps that are between 10 to 20 centimeters tall, and it has pretty yellow flowers that carry a wonderful fragrance. They bloom in the spring. In addition, it tolerates droughts well, and it grows very easily.

9 – Cuscuta (Dodder)


This is another parasitic plant. It actually sprouts near the soil, and within 10 days of sprouting, it attaches itself to a host tree. If it doesn’t attach within 10 days, it will die.

It has long yellow leaves that are thin, and these leaves wind their way around a tree and can reach the canopy of the tree. When a tree is infected, it appears to be covered in yellow.

10 – Vines

English Ivy Growing On Tree

Even though they have roots in the soil, vines actually live in trees. They climb the tree and use it for support as they make their way up toward the sun.

They can take over a tree and make it difficult for the tree to make its own food and keep its structural strength.

They can be very aggressive, and they are considered invasive for this reason. There are different types, including English Ivy and Morning Glory Ivy.

11 – Staghorn Ferns 

These epiphytic ferns have green fronds that resemble the antlers of a deer. They grow on trees across the tropical regions of South America, Africa, and Asia. 

Staghorn ferns have no roots. They use their fronds to capture rainwater and nutrients, thanks to their fuzzy undersides. They typically grow on the side of trees or other plants in the wild. 

12 – Orchids

Many tropical orchid species are epiphytes, growing on the branches and trunks of rainforest trees without harming them. 

There are around 28,000 orchid species out there, with the vibrant Cattleya and Phalaenopsis being my personal favorites. 

Note: Orchids attach to trees but don’t penetrate the bark. 

13 – Fig Trees

What appears as a single fig tree is actually two threes; a host tree and a stranger fig entwined. The strangler fig starts life as a seed left in the branches of a host tree by a visiting animal, like a bird. 

Then, it sends roots down towards the soil, enveloping its host tree while also growing upwards toward sunlight. The mesh of strangler fig roots slowly overtakes the host tree, eventually killing it. 

Still, the hollow remains of the host tree continue giving the strangler fig physical support. This is a process that can take over a hundred years!

Other Plants

Sometimes, trees have a pocket where a branch has fallen or a natural crevice has appeared. Seeds from other plants can fall into this crevice and grow. 

This is different from air plants or epiphytes that gain water and nutrients from the air. These plants grow in the soil that is in the crevices in the tree

Types of plants that commonly do this are grasses, small weeds, and other small plants.

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paul molz

Friday 6th of May 2022

a type of air plant started growing around my christmas plam. grow around the tree, leaf's are 2feet with a stem about 2 feet with red hard clusters, about 7 on each steam. I can send picture. Paul