I understand epiphytes are not parasitic. But how exactly are they helping the tree on which they grow?


It's important to note that not all symbiotic relationships must be expressed in terms of a positive-negative (parasitism) or a positive-positive (mutualism) framework. I would guess that most tree epiphytes exist in a commensal framework with their host trees. That is, the epiphyte has a positive interaction (it gets somewhere to grow), and the host species has neither positive nor negative effects.

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  • $\begingroup$ I didn't realise symbiotic relationship is superset of mutualism and parasitism! $\endgroup$ – yathish May 20 '18 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ @yathish the terminology in the ecological literature gets pretty malleable, but the Greek root basically means "living together" so can describe a range of relationships. $\endgroup$ – NatWH May 20 '18 at 16:06

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