Diversity and distribution of herbaceous vascular epiphytes in a tropical evergreen forest at Varagalaiar, Western Ghats, India

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Biodiversity and Conservation


Herbaceous vascular epiphytes were screened in a total sample of 13 445 trees (in 153 species) and 348 lianas (in 30 species) ge30 cm girth at breast height in a 30 ha plot of tropical evergreen forest at Varagalaiar, Indian Western Ghats. Of these, 4.3% of trees and 3.7% of lianas were infested with epiphytes. Epiphyte diversity totaled 26 species in 19 genera and 10 families. Sixteen species were angiosperms in three families (Orchidaceae 54%; Piperaceae and Araceae 8%) and 10 species (38%) were pteridophytes in seven families. The orchid, Pholidota pallida was most abundant and occurred on 178 (29.6%) stems. Asplenium nidus occurred on the maximum of 62 host species. The species richness estimators employed for species accumulation curves after 100 times randomization of sample order have stabilized the curve at 18th and 19th hectares respectively for Incidence-based Coverage Estimator and Chao2. A total of 588 trees and 13 liana stems lodged epiphytes, 74% of which were evergreen species and 26% deciduous. Epiphyte density was greater (56%) in deciduous species (Bischofia javanica 30% and Vitex altissima 8%). A significant positive relationship was found between trunk size and epiphyte association. Larger epiphyte species occurred mostly on middle and larger stems and smaller epiphyte species occurred on smaller stems. The majority of epiphytes (92%) were of autochorous dispersal type, bearing capsule or dust diaspores, while the remaining species with berries and nutlets are dispersed by small vertebrates.