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  • Writer's pictureCari Mackey

Bromeliads of the Jungle Canopy.

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

Remember how exciting it was to ride on the shoulders of an adult when you were a kid? From the dark vantage point of wrinkly knees and hairy legs to soaring over everyone with a whole new view of the world!

Now you know what it feels to be a plant growing on the towering behemoths of a jungle rain forest - trying to get a better view or actually, just trying to get a dose of that Vitamin Sun that can be hard to get to in a shady jungle life.

These plants, though they look like pineapple plants, are called Epiphytes - plants that live on other vegetation. Not to be mistaken as a parasitic plant, which many do, they are actually, in many ways companion plants and grow in abundance of sizes and colors here in Panama.

Their lives in the high rise is not an easy one as they contend with strong winds, lack of water, nutrients otherwise found in soils, and high heat exposure. So, as you can imagine, they have evolved some pretty sweet systems to flourish on their stressful perches.

The easiest epiphytes to find here are the bromeliads that come in all sizes and colors. They are well adapted, self sustainable plants that thrive in the jungle and they have got a lot going on up there.

Tank bromeliads shape (the big ones pictured here) efficiently funnel and store water in their water tight stem system. When it rains, their tank is always full and they are flourishing but during the drier months like right now, the plants have adapted systems to dramatically reduce their water loss allowing them to maintain a moist environment so many depend on all year long.

But what's even cooler is how much is really happening up there. Just like a high rise in NYC, your mind can't help but wonder what everyone is doing way up there. That little tank of water provides life for so many inhabitants of the jungle: frogs lay their tadpoles in there, little microorganisms living in the water become food for bugs that deposit their larvae, monkeys and other animals drink from their tanks, birds eat the bugs, and so on.

So, if you are ever thirsty or starving in the jungle, now you know a source or maybe just when you find yourself sipping a col-col brew on the terrace of our restaurant, keep a close eye on the skyrise in the trees now that you know what's really happening there!

Your Friends in Morrillo,

Cari and Ryan Mackey

Owners and Hosts

Morrillo Beach Eco Resort

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