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noun, plural: stranglers

(botany) A hemiepiphyte or epiphyte that grows when seed germinates at the canopy of the host plant and then produce many aerial roots that grow down to the ground and eventually strangle its host tree


Stranglers are plants that are named based on their tendency to strangle their host plants. They are exemplified by Ficus species (e.g. Ficus altissima, F. aurea, F. barbata, F. benghalensis, F. burtt-davyi, F. citrifolia, F. craterostoma, F. tinctoria, F. macrophylla, F. obliqua, F. virens, and F. watkinsiana). They are commonly called strangler figs. These plants are hemiepiphytes (or epiphytes) that begin their life as a seed most likely dispersed by a bird to the top of a host tree. From the canopy the seed germinates and then grows roots down to the ground. The fig's aerial roots eventually encircle the host tree and appear to strangle the host tree. When this happens, the host tree may fail to survive due to competition for light. In spite of the eventual death of the host, the strangler fig continues to grow with its roots growing into the soil, becoming thick, and now serving as additional trunks. The host tree that dies will rot away and leave a hollow cylinder of strangler fig roots. This cylinder of roots is ecologically important since it may serve as shelter or breeding site of birds, bats, and other animals. Strangler figs though are also capable of germinating and developing as independent trees, i.e. without a host tree.

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