Saturday, June 20, 2015
Bromeliads form a unique aerial ecosystem
Dr Abe V Rotor
Brightly colored false petals of bromeliad attract insects and other organisms to fertilize its shy, short-live flowers. The bright pseudo flowers serve as markers in the dense and vast forest high up in the trees. Here bromeliads form colonies with connecting rhizomes, and with other epiphytes - ferns, orchids and lianas - make a unique aerial ecosystem.
Domesticated bromeliads are popular ornamental plants in gardens and around homes. One disadvantages though is that it becomes a breeding place of mosquitoes and other vermin. It is because we have detached them from their natural habitat where they are part of a complex food web. Here mosquito wrigglers are preyed upon by naiads of Odonatans (dragonflies and damselflies), while the adults are trapped in spider webs. Tree frogs have their fill of flies and other insects. Fish live in the axil ponds and can even transfer to nearby bromeliads and even to the water below to hunt and to mate. While reptiles occupy the top of the food pyramid, hawks and eagles come to prey on them. Like a chain, just one link broken, and the system fails.
Bromeliads, which includes the pineapple (the only edible member in the family), are nature's reservoir of miniature ponds that provide abode to many organisms from insects to fish. The central receptacle collects water from dew and rain which spills over to the adjoining leaf axils, making a continuous pond. The sequence, like a series of terraces, makes water collection and retention efficient, giving chance for the various resident organisms to complete - and repeat - their life cycles. And for transient organisms to have their regular visit.
In this pond system, detritus accumulates and fertilizes the bromeliad as well as other plants around and below it, including its host tree, in exchange for its foothold and other benefits. And being epiphytic and colonial in growing habit on trunks and limbs of trees, bromeliads form a unique aerial ecosytem other epiphytes, and the surrounding trees.~