Mangroves as Habitat
Orchid epiphyte in flower.
Spiny ant plant, Mymercodia antonii.
Epiphytic fern and orchids.
Living on Mangroves - Epiphytes & Others
Australia’s mangroves contain a number of additional plants, including epiphytes, parasitic plants and fungi. Their presence in mangroves is often neglected with few studies that describe and quantify the presence of this important component of mangrove forests. For instance, an additional 42 species of epiphytic plants and 25 species of fungi were recently identified growing on Queensland mangrove plants. Common epiphytes in Australia’s mangroves include: orchids, ferns, lichens, mosses and ant plants. The numbers of epiphytes greatly increases in the wet tropical areas of northern Australia. In these areas, there are two common ant plants including: Myrmecodia beccarii (the Spiny Ant Plant), Hydnophytum formicarium (the Smooth Ant Plant). It is reported that the relationship between epiphyte and animal evolved in response to nutrient poor environments. In this case, the swollen, bulbous stems of the plants are honeycombed with tiny tunnels and galleries in which the ants live in blissful symbiosis. So the ants get a home, and the plants receive nutrients from the ants.
Mistletoes – parasites tapping into salty sap
Another notable group of mangrove associates are the mistletoes. Mistletoes occur on stems and branches of several mangrove species where they often mimic the leaves of their host. In contrast, flowers of the mistletoe are often unusually spectacular and showy in some cases, demonstrating their different pollinator strategies. For instance, there is no need for showy flowers in Rhizophora stylosa, the Long-styled Stilt Mangrove, since its flowers are wind pollinated. Mistletoe flowers are attractive to mistletoe birds that not only service the flowers and disperse pollen, but also eat the fleshy fruit and disperse the seeds. In fact, the sticky mistletoe seeds are difficult for the bird to defecate so it removes them by wiping its bottom against a branch – the best place for a new mistletoe to germinate and grow.