Is there a type of vine that survives on air alone?
I know of no vines that survive on air alone. but the Tillandsia group seem to come
They are members of the Bromeliad family (related to Pineapples) They live ON
other trees, without taking anything from the host except support - so they are
epiphytic not parasitic
Tillandsias absorb their moisture and nutrients through structures on their leaves
called trichomes. They are commonly called air plants because they seem to live on
fresh air alone. In fact they need the moist conditions and a sprinkling of dust and
other debris to provide the chemical nutrients they require. The other thing is that
with such a limited intake of nutrients, tillandias grow very slowly. I have managed
to kill some, because in Tennant Creek where I live the air is too dry for much of
the year, and even though I provide a mist of moisture from time to time, they dry
out too rapidly.
Perhaps the best known member of this group is Spanish Moss, which drapes itself
over trees in the Florida Everglades.
Other plants, especially many growing in tropical rain forests, can also be
epiphytic, taking support from other plants, but in a rain forest we are aware of
plenty of moisture and plenty of food in the way of falling leaves etc.
Epiphytic plants are sometimes called "air plants" but still require water,
nutrients, and light.
Anthony R. Brach, PhD
Missouri Botanical Garden
Click here to return to the Botany Archives
Update: June 2012