from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A plant, such as a tropical orchid or a staghorn fern, that grows on another plant upon which it depends for mechanical support but not for nutrients.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In botany, a plant which grows upon another plant, but which does not, like a parasite, derive its nourishment from it.
  • noun In zoology, a fungus parasitic on the skin and its appendages or on mucous surfaces of man and other animals, causing disease; a dermatophyte.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Bot.) An air plant which grows on other plants, but does not derive its nourishment from them. See air plant.
  • noun (Med.) A vegetable parasite growing on the surface of the body.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun botany A plant that grows on another, using it as a physical support but neither obtaining nutrients from it nor causing it any damage if also offering no benefit; an air plant.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun plant that derives moisture and nutrients from the air and rain; usually grows on another plant but not parasitic on it


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Ancient Greek ἐπιφύτον (epiphyton, "one [plant] that grows upon another plant"), from ἐπί (epi, "on top of") + φυτόν (phyton, "plant"), via -phyte.


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  • "...they had spent what waking hours they could spare from the Juan Fernandez ferns and epiphytes to combing the countryside in search of a nest..."

    --Patrick O'Brian, The Far Side of the World, 231

    February 23, 2008