When one plant grows on another without harming it, it's an epiphyte. Tiny ferns and mosses growing on tree trunks are epiphytes.

In rainforests, orchids and bromeliads are common epiphytes, attached to other plants but getting their nutrients from the air around them. In more temperate regions, you might see lichen and moss growing on dead trees and guess they're responsible for killing their host — but these epiphytes simply take advantage of the increased sunlight and physical support of the bare trunks. You can grow an epiphyte of your own, too, by buying a tiny "air plant."

Definitions of epiphyte
  1. noun
    plant that derives moisture and nutrients from the air and rain; usually grows on another plant but not parasitic on it
    synonyms: aerophyte, air plant, epiphytic plant
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    Clusia insignis, waxflower
    epiphytic clusia of British Guiana
    Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides, black moss, long moss, old man's beard
    dense festoons of greenish-grey hairlike flexuous strands anchored to tree trunks and branches by sparse wiry roots; southeastern United States and West Indies to South America
    a plant of the genus Aeschynanthus having somewhat red or orange flowers and seeds having distinctive hairs at base and apex
    hemiepiphyte, semiepiphyte
    a plant that is an epiphyte for part of its life
    strangler, strangler tree
    an epiphytic vine or tree whose aerial roots extend down the trunk of a supporting tree and coalesce around it eventually strangling the tree
    Clusia major, Clusia rosea, pitch apple, strangler fig
    a common tropical American clusia having solitary white or rose flowers
    Aeschynanthus radicans, lipstick plant
    epiphyte or creeping on rocks; Malaysian plant having somewhat fleshy leaves and bright red flowers
    type of:
    flora, plant, plant life
    (botany) a living organism lacking the power of locomotion
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