Outdoor Learning: Easter and epiphytes

Published on: March 27, 2013

Master Naturalist and Camp Bayou Supporter

It’s a marvel to see Resurrection Fern and the native Florida Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia tampensis) growing together on oak tree branches. I have seen it at Lettuce Lake in Tampa and at Camp Bayou in Ruskin. You must look up at the higher branches for these epiphytes, which often require a higher perch for sunlight and a bit of organic matter that gathers on older and larger branches. Look for strap-like green leaves of the orchid amidst the low-growing ferns.

Epiphytes are often called air plants; they live upon other plants while taking nutrients and water from the air. Spanish moss is a well-known example, though it is not a moss but a bromeliad. The three types of epiphytes include some of the ferns, orchids, and bromeliads. They do not harm the plant or tree that they grow on and should not be removed because they provide benefits in the ecosystem as well as being interesting and beautiful.

I also have resurrection ferns growing in my rock garden. I can pick up a rough stone with a section of the fern that looks dead, but after each rain or even with high humidity, the ferns turn from gray to green and unfurl their tiny fronds upward again. The spring rains are bringing out all sorts of greenery and blooms. 

I also think of the resurrection of my Savior at this Easter season. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the earth showeth forth His handiwork.”

This column is sponsored by Camp Bayou Outdoor Learning Center located in Ruskin at 4140 24th Street SE, 3 miles south of S.R. 674 off exit 240 W. on I-75. Email: or call (813) 641-8545 for more information.