Native epiphytes and lithophytes not well represented in Hawaii

Many tropical vireya rhododendron and Medinella will grow as epiphytes and lithophytes in humid forests of Hawaii. (Voltaire Moise/Special to West Hawaii Today)

If you were to visit the humid tropics of Asia, Central and South America you would be amazed at all the plants that grow on the branches of trees and even on rocks with no soil. We do have lichens, mosses and even ferns that have evolved here to festoon rainforest and cloud forest trees, but there are few compared to the rest of the tropical world. Those growing on trees are referred to as epiphytes. Those growing on rocks are lithophytes. When you think of it, much of the vegetation growing on our young lava lands fit in to this category. For example, a young ohia and hapu’u forests where there is no soil can be considered terrestrial and lithophytic as well.