Paris, France — This is a wild world, a world of orchids, ferns and the enigmatic epiphytes, plants that seem to grow out of nowhere lining the canopy of the tropical forests. This is a world showcased in the Great Greenhouses of the Botanical Gardens of France’s Natural History Museum in Paris on the edge of the Seine. It is a journey into a temporary exhibition in the lush and luxuriant Great Greenhouses of the museum. Dubbed Tropical Autumn, the show focuses in on one of the wilder shores of nature, epiphytes, these plants that seemingly grow out of nowhere and so they do, taking their nutrients in from the air and atmosphere around them.
It is an exhibition that asks the visitor to look up and beyond where more than 500 plants have been installed into the thousands that are already there on display throughout the year. These curious creatures that are epiphytes live upon trees but do not live off of them for they are not parasites and they can develop on a trunk, a branch or even a leaf without touching the ground. In this way they benefit from the light above them and don’t have to compete with the tough competition in the undergrowth and are readily accessible to pollinators.
They take in the humidity of the atmosphere and minerals by their aerial roots and leaves and conserve and stock water for drier days in their fleshy stems and succulent leaves. They evolve in tropical forests, but not solely for they can be found in other climates, like humid temperate forests or dry tropical forests.