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In the ethnobotanical garden 'Sachamama' in the Amazon rainforest of Peru, a selection of epiphytes has been collected from the canopy and attached to wooden stumps standing upright from the ground, so as to portray and have easier access to these medicinal plants. The plants on this page were part of this selection.

Epiphytes, plants growing upon other plants, are of many kinds (Oldeman 1990). The ones particularly associated with the canopy of the rainforest, 'plantas aéreas', are those whose lifecycle takes place in that region, without any direct relation with the soil in which the trees that support them are established. The forest canopy is described by Oldeman in 1974 as 'the greenish layer in between the lowest living tree branch and the upper level of the crowns'. The green surface of the canopy is folded at different scales, from whole crowns, to crownlets, leaf-bearing twigs and leaves, structuring a dynamic, complex milieu (Oldeman 2001).

A typical neotropical example is the bromeliad mini-ecosystem with dry and wet parts, bryophytes, insects, amphibians, and snakes (Oldeman 2001). The variety of byiotopes enabling bromeliads' establishment and development is indicated by their mere presence throughout the canopy. The architecture of trees, their chemical composition and structure, the (mobile) presence and composition of other organisms, solar radiation, precipitation and airflow, all these and other characteristics interact to create a specific local situation that changes with time. The study of biotopes addresses which interactions at what stage of a plant's development enable its growth. There can be a multitude of possible combinations allowing growth, of which some may approach the plants' present optimum. For information on the establishment and development of epiphytes in secondary neotropical forests, the reader is referred to VanDunné, 2001 .

The local name, harvested part, preparation and medicinal application of the documented epiphytes can be read after clicking on the images surrounding this text.



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