Photosynthetic responses of 12 species including six fern species (Neottopteris nidus, Microsorum punctatum, Pseudodrynaria coronans, Asplenium finlaysonianum, Paraleptochilus decurrens and Tectaria fauriei) and seedlings of six fig species (Ficus curtipes, F. gibbosa, F. altissima, F. auriculata, F. oligodon and F. hookeriana) in different life forms to lightfleck were investigated, to test whether epiphytes and hemiepiphytes display a slower response to lightfleck and fast induction loss after a lightfleck compared with their terrestrial counterparts, and whether ferns display a slower response to lightfleck and slower induction loss compared to figs. The measurements of functional traits and physiological parameters were determined in a screenhouse of 4% full sunlight. Epiphytic ferns and hemiepiphytic figs had thicker leaves compared with their terrestrial counterparts. Compared with figs, ferns had thicker fronds, larger stomata with a low density, and lower stomatal conductance and photosynthetic capacity; ferns had lower light compensation point and dark respiration rate, conferring a positive carbon gain under low diffuse light beneath the canopy. The induction time to reach 90% maximum net photosynthetic rate (T90) upon the exposure to a saturated light varied strongly among life forms. Epiphytic ferns had slower T90 than terrestrial ferns (19.9–26.3 vs 5.9–16.3 min, respectively), and hemiepiphytic figs had slower T90 than terrestrial figs (13.1–20.4 vs 5.2–7.8 min, respectively). Compared with figs, ferns showed a slower response to lightfleck. Across ferns and figs, the induction time was negatively correlated with initial stomatal conductance. No significant difference in induction loss was found between two life forms within ferns or figs, whereas ferns had a significantly slower induction loss compared with figs. These results showed that the inherent conservative water use strategy of the epiphytes and hemiepiphytes constrain their lightfleck utilization.