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What drives the vital rates of secondary hemiepiphytes? A first assessment for three species of Heteropsis (Araceae) in the Colombian Amazon

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 April 2015

María Paula Balcázar-Vargas*
Ecology and Biodiversity, Institute of Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, Padualaan 8, 3584 CH Utrecht, the Netherlands
Tinde R. van Andel
Naturalis Biodiversity Center, P.O. Box 9517, 2300 RA Leiden, the Netherlands
Paul Westers
Department of Biostatistics and Research Support, UMC Utrecht, div. Julius Centrum, PO Box 85500, 3508 GA Utrecht, the Netherlands
Pieter A. Zuidema
Forest Ecology and Forest Management, Wageningen Universiteit, Droevendaalsesteeg 3a, PO Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, the Netherlands
1Corresponding author. Email:


Secondary hemiepiphytes rely on other plants (hosts) to grow vertically. After germinating on the forest floor, their seedlings search a host to ascend. We recorded information on survival, growth, reproduction and vegetative propagation of three Heteropsis species, to evaluate what drives their vital rates. We measured 700 individuals of each study species between 2007 and 2009 in the southern Colombian Amazon. A gradual increase in stem length, leaf size, number of roots and plagiotropic branches was found with increasing height of Heteropsis individuals on their hosts. Survival of leafless non-climbing seedlings was very low (28% annually); increasing substantially (84–94%) once the seedling had ascended a host. The three Heteropsis species presented slow height growth rates (c. 2–8 cm y−1) with large variation, while a substantial percentage of the stems (31–62%) did not grow or dried out. Vegetative propagation in Heteropsis may act as a dispersion-propagation strategy to find a suitable host and reach the canopy again after falling. The slow growth rates suggest that Heteropsis individuals that have reached the canopy are rather old. Once plants have reached the tree crowns, their longevity is largely determined by the survival of the host tree.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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