Where do air plants come from? This article has got all the answers to your questions plus a few facts about air plants.
Air plants are a unique species of plants that belong to the genus Tillandsia. What makes the plants remarkable is the fact that they can grow and develop to full maturity without soil.
There are above 600 types of air plants, and their survival strategies have astounded many biologists.
Plant sciences have verified that air plants mostly grow in arid and mountainous areas which have suitable climatic conditions.
The article will walk you through a journey of facts that will help you understand where do air plants come from, their unique characteristics, and how they are adapted to their functions for survival.
Origin of Air Plants
Although air plants can grow in almost all atmospheric conditions, their origin is traced back to South America, North America, and the West Indies. In the USA, for instance, the plants are famous in Florida, Texas, and Georgia among other regions. In addition, the plants have been growing in significant numbers in the arid and semi-arid areas of Argentina.
The thin-leaf species of air plants are popular in cold and wet regions which experience ample rainfall during most parts of the year. In contrast, the thick-leaf species are popular in the arid and semi-arid areas which receive unreliable rains. The thick leaves enable the plants to reserve more water for their physiological processes during periods of prolonged droughts.
Pineapples and air plants belong to the same family. However, whereas pineapples require soil for their growth, air plants have specialized cells called trichomes, which help them thrive in the absence of soil. The trichomes absorb water and nutrients from the atmosphere for use by the plants.
Characteristics of Air Plants
Air plants are epiphytes
Epiphytes can thrive naturally without soil, a characteristic that is rare among plants. Though air plants have abilities to develop roots like other plants, their roots are not specialized to absorb water from the nearby environment.
Strangely, the roots of air plants do not last for long. For this reason, the plants have specialized cells which enable them to obtain water from the atmosphere easily.
What is the Role of Roots in Air Plants
The roots are primarily used for anchorage and support as the plants attach themselves to shrubs, electric poles/cables, and other tree branches.
Adaptation of Air Plants
1. Epiphytes Synthesize Their Food
Air plants have green leaves which absorb sunlight for use during photosynthesis. Undoubtedly, this aspect separates epiphytes from parasitic plants which rely on other plants for water and nutrients.
2. Air Plants Have Special Cells For Water Absorption
Specialized cells on the leaves of air plants called trichomes allow the plants to trap dust particles. The dust particles provide air spaces which retain moisture. The air spaces also trap minerals salts from fog and rainwater. In this manner, the plant remains healthy and hydrated even during dry seasons.
3. Air Plants Breath During the Night
Gaseous exchange in air plants takes place during the night through a process called CAM photosynthesis. The process allows the plants to use water at maximum efficiency. As a result, the plants can thrive in arid areas where other plants cannot survive naturally.
4. Air Plants Pollinate Easily
The seeds of air plants are light and silky. These attributes enable them to be propagated by wind, birds, and animals to different places.
As has been mentioned above, understanding where do air plants come from, and their adaptations to their functions is essential at helping you appreciate the growth and existence of epiphytes.