Friday, December 21, 2012

"Strangler Vine"

Interesting Belize Rainforest Plants
Karen Travers

The ‘Strangler Fig (or Vine)’ starts out as an epiphyte seed that germinates in a tree. It is actually a “Ficus”, the same family of tress as the ‘Weeping Fig’.

Rather than growing its own huge trunk, it “cheats” by growing from the top down, slithering its roots from high in the tree down to the ground.

As the vine grows it gently encircles the tree with green growth. Once rooted in the ground, the vine expands its web. It thickens and flattens against the tree trunk.

Eventually the roots completely encircle the trunk and begin to fuse; above in the canopy the fig is shading out the host tree's leaves.  The host tree sickens and dies, and eventually decomposes.  This leaves the strangler fig standing tall, its fused roots forming a hollow trunk as tall as the original tree. While merely a shell, it is strong enough to stand. The whole process takes a long time – maybe a century and a half.

Once the tree decomposes, the remaining structure is an intricate network filled with cavities. This is the Strangler Vine ‘stand’ we just obtained, with an antique Mahogany bowl that just fits on the top. These shallow scooped bowls were used for kneading bread.