Epiphytic Plants as NTFPs from the Forest Canopies: Priorities for Management and Conservation



A wide range of canopy plants are harvested for their economic and cultural value, yet little is known about their the impacts of harvest on populations of vascular and non-vascular epiphytic plants, the canopy species that depend on them, and their ecosystems. In addition, understanding epiphyte harvest and its effects necessitates the study of cultural and socioeconomic patterns of use and trade, in addition to biological data, yet very few studies address that. Existing research on the epiphyte market indicate that a high diversity and volume of species are traded. This is specifically important because it can strengthen conservation efforts since most of these species are listed under CITES including the Orchidaceae. We review what we know to date about the harvest and trade in the forest canopy, focusing on four categories of epiphytic plants: orchids, bromeliads, ferns, and nonvascular plants. We conclude by identifying research priorities that address the key knowledge gaps identified in the review.


Epiphyte Harvest Trade Market Orchidaceae Bromeliaceae Ferns Moss 


  1. Aceby A, Krömer T, Maass BL, Kessler M (2010) Ecoregional distribution of potentially useful species of Araceae and Bromeliaceae as non-timber forest products in Bolivia. Biol Conserv 19:637–650Google Scholar
  2. Acharya K, Rokaya M (2010) Medicinal orchids of Nepal: are they well protected? Our Nat 8(1):82–91Google Scholar
  3. Ackerman JD, Sabat A, Zimmerman JK (1996) Seedling establishment in an epiphytic orchid: an experimental study of seed limitation. Oecologia 106:192–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Agrawal A, Ostrom E (2001) Collective action, property rights, and decentralization in resource use in India and Nepal. Polit Soc 29:485CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alcorn JB (1984) Huastec Mayan ethnobotany. University of Texas Press, Austin TexasGoogle Scholar
  6. Alcorn JB, Toledo VM (1998) Resilient resource management in Mexico’s forest ecosystems: the contribution of property rights. In: Linking social and ecological systems: management practices and social mechanisms for building resilience. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 216–249Google Scholar
  7. Åvila-Diaz I, Oyama K, Gomez-Alonso C, Salgado-Garciglia R (2009) In vitro propagation of the endangered orchid Laelia speciosa. Plant Cell Tissue Organ Cult 99:335–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bennett BC (1990) Ethnobotany of bromeliads: indigenous uses of tillandsias in the southern Andes of Peru. J Bromeliad Soc 40(2):64–69Google Scholar
  9. Bennett B (1992) Use of epiphytes, lianas and parasites by the Shuar people of Amazonian Ecuador. Selbyana 13:99–114Google Scholar
  10. Bennett BC (1995) Ethnobotany and economic botany of epiphytes, lianas, and other host-dependent plants: an overview. In: Lowman MD, Nadkarni NK (eds) Forest canopies. Academic, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  11. Berdan FF, Stark EA, Sahagún JD (2009) Production and use of orchid adhesives in Aztec Mexico: the domestic context. Archeol Pap Am Anthropol Assoc 19(1):148–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Blüthgen N, Verhaagh M, Goitía W (2000) Ant nests in tank bromeliads–an example of non-specific interaction. Insect Soc 47:313–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Boustead W (1966) Conservation of Australian Aboriginal bark paintings with a note on the restoration of a New Ireland wood carving. Stud Conserv 11(4):197–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bulpitt CJ, Li Y, Bulpitt PF, Wang J (2007) The use of orchids in Chinese medicine. J R Soc Med 100(12):558–563PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cribb PJ, Kell SP, Dixon KW, Barrett RL (2003) Orchid conservation: a global perspective. Orchid conservation. Natural History Publications (Borneo), Kota Kinabala, pp 1–24Google Scholar
  16. Cunningham A (ed) (2001) Applied ethnobotany: people, wild plant use & conservation. Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  17. Damon A, Perez Soriano M, del Lourdes RM (2005) Substrates and fertilization for the rustic cultivation of in vitro propagated native orchids in Soconusco, Chiapas. Renew Agric Food Syst 20:214–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Diesel R (1989) Parental care in an unusual environment: metopaulias depressus (Decapoda: Grapsidae), a crab that lives in epiphytic bromeliads. Anim Behav 38:561–575CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dutra D, Kane ME, Richardson L (2009) Asymbiotic seed germination and in vitro seedling development of Cyrtopodium punctatum: a propagation protocol for an endangered Florida native orchid. Plant Cell Tissue Organ Cult 96(3):235–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. FAO (1991) Non-wood forest products: the way ahead. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, RomeGoogle Scholar
  21. FAO (1995) Non-wood forest products for rural income and sustainable development. Food and Agriculture Organization, RomeGoogle Scholar
  22. Flores-Palacios A, Valencia-Diaz S (2007) Local illegal trade reveals unknown diversity and involves a high species richness of wild vascular epiphytes. Biol Conserv 136:372–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Foissner W (2003) Morphology and ontogenesis of Bromeliophrya brasiliensis gen. n., sp. n., a new ciliate (Protozoa: Ciliophora) from Brazilian tank bromeliads (Bromeliaceae). Acta Protozool 42:55–70Google Scholar
  24. Fragoso C, Rojas-Fernández P (1996) Earthworms inhabiting bromeliads in Mexican tropical rainforests: ecological and historical determinants. J Trop Ecol 12:729–734CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gentry AH, Dodson C (1987) Contribution of nontrees to species richness of a tropical rain forest. Biotropica 19:149–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ghorbani A, Langenberger G, Feng L, Sauerborn J (2011) Ethnobotanical study of medicinal plants utilised by Hani ethnicity in Naban River Watershed National Nature Reserve, Yunnan, China. J Ethnopharmacol 134(3):651–667PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Haeckel IB (2008) The “arco floral”: ethnobotany of Tillandsia and Dasylirion spp. in a Mexican religious adornment. Econ Bot 62(1):90–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hornung-Leoni CT (2011) Bromeliads: traditional plant food in Latin America since prehispanic times. Polibotánica 32:219–229Google Scholar
  29. Koirala PN, Pyakurel D, Gurung K (2010) Orchids in Rolpa district of Western Nepal: documentation, stock, trade and conservation. Banko Jankari 20(2):3–13Google Scholar
  30. Koopowitz H (2001) Orchids and their conservation. Timber Press, PortlandGoogle Scholar
  31. Koopowitz H, Lavarack PS, Dixon KW (2003) The nature of threats to orchid conservation. In: Dixon KW, Kell SP, Barrett RL, Cribb PJ (eds) Orchid conservation. Natural History Publications, BorneoGoogle Scholar
  32. Kumar K, Upreti D (2001) Parmelia spp. (lichens) in ancient medicinal plant lore of India. Econ Bot 55:458–459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lawlor LJ (1984) Ethnobotany of Orchidaceae. In: Arditti J (ed) Orchid biology: reviews and perspectives. Cornell University Press (Comstock), IthacaGoogle Scholar
  34. Marquez GJ, Yanez A (2012) Helechos epifitos de Alsophila setosa (Cyatheaceae, Pteridophyta) en la provincia de Misiones, Argentina. Boletin de la Sociedad Argentina de Botanica 47(3–4):435–442Google Scholar
  35. May LW (1978) The economic uses and associated Folklore of Ferns and Fern Allies. Bot Rev 44(4):491–528CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Moegenburg SM, Levey DJ (2003) Do frugivores respond to fruit harvest? An experimental study of short-term responses. Ecology 84:2600–2612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Moffett MW (2000) What’s “up”? A critical look at the basic terms of canopy biology. Biotropica 32:569–596CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Molleman L, Boeve S, Wolf J, Oostermeijer G, Devy S, Ganesan R (2011) Commercial harvesting and regeneration of epiphytic macrolichen communities in the Western Ghats, India. Environ Conserv 38:334–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mondragón D (2008) La comercializaon navidena de bromelias epifitas en la ciudad de Oaxaca, Mexico. Etnobiología 6:24–28Google Scholar
  40. Mondragón D (2009) Population viability analysis for Guarianthe aurantiaca, an ornamental epiphytic orchid harvested in Southeast Mexico. Plant Species Biol 24:35–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mondragon D, Ticktin T (2011) Demographic effects of harvesting epiphytic bromeliads and an alternative approach to collection. Conserv Biol 25:797–807CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mondragón D, Villa-Guzmán DM (2008) Estudio etnobotánico de las bromelias epífitas en la comunidad de Santa Catarina Ixtepeji, Oaxaca, México. Polibotánica 26:175–191Google Scholar
  43. Mondragón D, Durán R, Valverde T (2004) Temporal variation in the demography of the clonal epiphyte Tillandsia brachycaulos (Bromeliaceae) in the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. J Trop Ecol 20:189–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Muir PS (2004) An assessment of commercial “moss” harvesting from forested lands in the Pacific Northwestern and Appalachian regions of the United States: how much moss is harvested and sold domestically and internationally and which species are involved. Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State UniversityGoogle Scholar
  45. Muir P, Norman K, Sikes K (2006) Quantity and value of commercial moss harvest from forests of the Pacific Northwest and Appalachian regions of the US. Bryol 109:197–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Nadkarni N (1992) The conservation of epiphytes and their habitats: summary of a discussion at the international symposium on the biology and conservation of epiphytes. Selbyana 13:140–142Google Scholar
  47. Nadkarni NM, Matelson TJ (1992) Biomass and nutrient dynamics of epiphytic litterfall in a neotropical montane forest, Costa Rica. Biotropica 24:24–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Negrelle RRB, Anacleto A, Mitchell D (2011) Bromeliad ornamental species: conservation issues and challenges related to commercialization-doi: 10.4025/actascibiolsci. v34i1. 7314. Acta Sci Biol Sci 34(1):91–100Google Scholar
  49. Ossenbach-Sauter C (2009) Orchids and orchidology in Central America: 500 years of history. Lankesteriana 9(1/2):1–268Google Scholar
  50. Otero JT, Bayman P, Ackerman JD (2005) Variation in mycorrhizal performance in the epiphytic orchid Tolumnia variegata in vitro: the potential for natural selection. Evol Ecol 19:29–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pearn J (2005) The world’s longest surviving paediatric practices: some themes of Aboriginal medical ethnobotany in Australia. J Paediatr Child Health 41:284–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Peck JE (1997) Commercial moss harvest in northwestern Oregon: describing the epiphyte communities. Northwest Sci 71:186–195Google Scholar
  53. Peck JE (2006a) Towards sustainable commercial moss harvest in the Pacific Northwest of North America. Biol Conserv 128:289–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Peck JE (2006b) Regrowth of understory epiphytic bryophytes 10 years after simulated commercial moss harvest. Can J Forest Res 36:1749–1757CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Peck JE, Christy JA (2006) Putting the stewardship concept into practice: commercial moss harvest in Northwestern Oregon, USA. Forest Ecol Manag 225:225–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Peck JE, Frelich LE (2008) Moss harvest truncates the successional development of epiphytic bryophytes in the Pacific Northwest. Ecol Appl 18(1):146–158PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Peck JE, Muir PS (2007) Conservation management of the mixed species nontimber forest product of “moss” – are they harvesting what we think they’re harvesting? Biodivers Conserv 16:2031–2043CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Peck JE, Hoganson H, Muir P, Ek A, Frelich L (2008) Using inventory projections to evaluate management options for the Nontimber forest product of epiphytic moss. Forest Sci 54(2):185–194Google Scholar
  59. Phelps J, Webb EL et al (2010) Boosting CITES. Science 330(6012):1752PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Porembski S, Biedinger N (2001) Epiphytic ferns for sale: influence of commercial plant collection on the frequency of Platycerium stemaria (Polypodiaceae) in coconut plantations on the southeastern Ivory Coast. Plant Biol 3(1):72–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Rajbhandari KR, Bhattarai S, Joshi R (2000) Orchid diversity of Nepal and their conservation need. In: Bista MS, Joshi RB, Amatya SM, Parajuli AV, Adhikari MK, Saiju HK, Thakur R, Suzuki K, Ishii K (eds) Proceedings of 8th international workshop of BIO-REFOR: biotechnology applications for reforestation and biodiversity conservation, Kathmandu, 28 Nov–2 Dec 1999. BIO-REFOR, IUFRO/SPDC, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  62. Rees J (1976) The oaxaca christmas plant market. J Brom Soc 26(6):223–232Google Scholar
  63. Roberts NR, Dalton PJ, Jordan GD (2005) Epiphytic ferns and bryophytes of Tasmanian tree-ferns: a comparison of diversity and composition between two host species. Austral Ecol 30(2):146–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Santos-Hernandez L, Martinez-Garcia M, Campos JE, Aguirre-Leon E (2005) In vitro propagation of Laelia albida (Orchidaceae) for conservation and ornamental purposes in Mexico. HortScience 40:439–442Google Scholar
  65. Schmitt J, Windisch P (2010) Biodiversity and spatial distribution of epiphytic ferns on Alsophila setosa Kaulf. (Cyatheaceae) caudices in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Braz J Biol 70:521–528PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Shah N (1997) Lichens of economic importance from the hills of Uttar Pradesh, India. J Herbs Spices Med Plants (USA) 5:69–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Soto M, Solano R, Hàgsater E (2007) Risk of extinction and patterns of diversity loss in Mexican orchids. Lankesteriana 7:114–121Google Scholar
  68. Thomas BA (1999) Some commercial uses of pteridophytes in Central America. Am Fern J 89(2):101–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Ticktin T (2004) The ecological implications of harvesting non-timber forest products. J Appl Ecol 41:11–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Ticktin T, Whitehead AN, Fraiola H (2006) Traditional gathering of native hula plants in alien-invaded Hawaiian forests: adaptive practices, impacts on alien invasive species and conservation implications. Environ Conserv 33:185–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Ticktin T, Fraiola H, Whitehead AN (2007) Non-timber forest product harvesting in alien-dominated forests: effects of frond-harvest and rainfall on the demography of two native Hawaiian ferns. Biodivers Conserv 16:1633–1651CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Tremblay R (1997) Lepanthes caritensis, an endangered orchid: no sex, no future. Selbyana 18:160–166Google Scholar
  73. Upreti DK, Divakar PK, Nayaka S (2005) Commercial and ethnic use of lichens in India. Econ Bot 59:269–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Valverde T, Bernal R (2010) Hay asincronia demografica entre poblaciones locales de Tillandsia recurvata?: Evidencias de su funcionamiento metapoblacional. Boletin de la Sociedad Botanica de Mexico 86:23–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Winkler M, Hulber K, Hietz P (2007) Population dynamics of epiphytic bromeliads: life strategies and the role of host branches. Basic Appl Ecol 8:183–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wolf JHD, Konings CJF (2001) Toward the sustainable harvesting of epiphytic bromeliads: a pilot study from the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. Biol Conserv 101(1):23–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Zheng X, Xing F (2009) Ethnobotanical study on medicinal plants around Mt. Yinggeling, Hainan Island, China. J Ethnopharmacol 124(2):197–210PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Zotz G, Laube S, Schmidt G (2005) Long-term population dynamics of the epiphytic bromeliad, Werauhia sanguinolenta. Ecography 28:806–814CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Botany DepartmentUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA

Personalised recommendations