Elaeis guineensis as a phorophyte species

in StemSocial2 months ago

This delivery of beginning of the year 2021, to give continuity to the thematic contributions of botanical cut, in this opportunity I will socialize with you everything related to the bioprotocol of facultative epiphytic plants, fundamentally inherent aspects to the developed one that show the ferns Polystichum spp., when prostrating on Elaeis guineensis like phorophyte species.


It is known as epiphytic plants, plant species that live in commensalism with phorophytic plants (host), through a set of biological interactions, where there is no effect on the species that acts as a phorophyte.

Biologically, epiphytic plants are autotrophic organisms that have developed diverse mechanisms, which allow them to survive prostrate on organographic structures of trees, shrubs and semi-yellowish plants, without establishing a metabolic relationship, an aspect that differentiates them from parasitic plant species.

From these precepts, in this post, we will approach the Bioprotocol used by the facultative epiphytic plants Polystichum spp., giving answer to the set of procedures executed to develop on the trunk of the phorophyte species Elaeis guineensis, making emphasis on: A.-Location by zoning and B.-Ecophysiological gradient.

Bioprotocol of epiphytic plants

The ecosystems where epiphytic plants grow are characterized by unfavorable environmental conditions in the canopy in terms of availability of light, moisture and nutrients. Faced with these adverse biological scenarios, epiphytic species have adapted changes in anatomical structures and at the same time developed a set of physical procedures, which allows them not to interrupt their physiological reactions.

The biological systems and bioprotocols used by epiphytic plants to prostrate themselves on a phorophyte are different;

1.- Autotrophic epiphytes (photosynthetic plants prostrate exclusively on woody phorophytes).

2.- Accidental epiphytes (plants without morphological modifications).

3.- Facultative epiphytes (plants that grow on the ground and then colonize the phorophyte).

4.- Hemiepiphytic epiphytes (plants that begin their growth on the phorophyte and then establish themselves in the soil).

The bioprotocol to consider in the present post, is the type Facultative, this biological system invariably begins in a terrestrial habitat (ground), with a later aerial ascent and vertical establishment on the trunks of phorophytic plants, that guarantee an optimal architecture, basically for the capture of light and humidity.

Fig. 2 Facultative epiphyte Polystichum spp., prostrate on the trunk of the phorophyte Elaeis guineensis. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

Architectural characteristics of the phorophyte

As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, a phorophyte is a woody plant species that serves as a biological chamber (host species) for the establishment and subsequent colonization of epiphytic plants, for the purposes of this post, describe the architectural characteristics of the phorophyte Elaeis guineensis, whose individuals are in a condition of cultivation in the southern zone of Lake Maracaibo-Venezuela.


The Elaeis guineensis (Oil palm), presents a phenology of perennial growth, has a troc of woody morphology, pinnate leaves composed with considerably wide petioles in the base of intercession to the stem, favorable aspects for the epiphytism (ascent and establishment of epiphytic plants).

Trunk height

The considered area, presents plants of Elaeis guineensis, whose trunks exhibit heights between 8 and 11 meters.

Diameter of the trunk

The diameter of the trunk shows homogeneity, obtaining average records close to 50 centimeters, this may be due to the ecophysiological conditions and handling as a crop.

Philotaxic design

Elaeis guineensis, has a phyllotaxic arrangement and spiral diagramming, presenting an estimated 8 leaves arranged on the vertical axis.

Moisture retainers

There were cuts at the base of the petioles and on these incisions visible cracks or spaces, which serve as rainwater retainers, a condition suitable for the colonization of epiphytic plants.

Fig. 3 Moisture retaining cracks in the phorophyte Elaeis guineensis. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

Zoning and epiphytic occupation

With the purpose of knowing the bioprotocol of facultative epiphytic plants Polystichum spp., which use the Elaeis guineensis as a phorophyte species, a field level sampling was carried out in the area of perennial crops of UNESUR, by means of the technique of zig-zag transects, selected 10 plants E. guineensis, seeking with this to determine the zoning and epiphytic occupation.

In order to analyze the epiphytic occupation, the humidity and light intensity by zoning were determined, in relation to the humidity samples of substrate by area were taken, prescribing the differences between wet and dry weight, to consider the light intensity the spaces and ranges where the epiphytic plants were located were photographed.

Zone I

Plants of Polystichum spp. were appreciated, at ground level around the base of the trunk of species of Elaeis guineensis, visualizing at the same time the zone of the back of the fronds, finding detachments of spores, which reflects the dispersion probably by anemocoria (wind), on the vertical parts of the phorophyte.

Fig. 4 Seedlings of Polystichum spp., growing in the soil near the base of the trunk of Elaeis guineensis. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

Zone II

A second zone of occupation was found, from the bottom of the trunk to approximately 5 meters high.

Fig. 5 Seedlings of Polystichum spp., in the lower 5 meters of the trunk of Elaeis guineensis. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

Zone III

The last recorded zone of occupation, was visualized at 10 meters high, specifically over the apical meristematic area of the stem of Elaeis guineensis.

Fig. 6 Seedlings of Polystichum spp., prostrate in the apical meristematic area of Elaeis guineensis. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

Ecophysiological gradient

The bioprotocol of epiphytic plants Polystichum spp. reflects the set of adaptive strategies from the ecophysiological point of view, to survive in favorable conditions on the phorophyte, this due to the following considerations:

Moisture in the phorophyte

A greater abundance of epiphytic plants Polystichum spp. was observed in the areas that registered average humidity of 60%, which shows that the ecological amplitude is related to humidity.

Fig. 7 Phorophyte area Elaeis guineensis, with higher percentage of humidity. Author: @lupafilotaxia.

Lighting environment

The facultative epiphytic plants of Polystichum spp. prostrated with visible ecological amplitude, in the upper zones of the phorophyte with appreciable light availability.

Phorophyte height

Of the 10 phorophyte plants Elaeis guineensis, considered in the study, those with trunks of 10 to 11 meters showed the highest colonization of optional epiphytes of Polystichum spp, which certifies that the bioprotocol of this type of epiphytes, is executed towards the crowns of the tallest trees.

Fig. 8 Visibly developed fronds of Polystichum spp. on top of the phorophyte Elaeis guineensis. Author: @lupafilotaxia.


  • The developed work, constitutes an unpublished contribution that allows to understand the relation between; the architectonic characteristics of the phorophyte and the ecological amplitude of the facultative epiphytic plant Polystichum spp, from the ground to the apical superior end of the trunk of the Elaeis guineensis, at the same time the socialized information, outlines the adaptive ecophysiological gradient and of greater establishment and colonization of this type of epiphytic plants.


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[2] Benzing D. Vascular epiphytes: General biology and related biota. Cambridge. Univ. Press, New York. 1990; 354 pp.

[3] Ceja J., Espejo A., López A., García C., Mendoza R., Pérez G. Las plantas epífitas, su diversidad e importancia. Ciencias. 2008; 91:35–42.

[4] Granados D., López G., Hernández M., Sánchez A. Ecología de las plantas epífitas. Revista Chapingo Serie Ciencias Forestales y del Ambiente. 2003; 9:2: 101-111.

[5] Sinclair R. Water relations of tropical epiphytes. II. Perfomance during droughting. Journal of Experimental Botany. 1983; 34:149:1664-1675.


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