Geophyte - an uncomfortable definition ?

J.E. Shields
Sun, 25 Jan 2004 10:40:33 PST
Now it is getting more interesting!   Can an epiphyte be a geophyte?  I'd 
say, "No."  That would be an oxymoron.  I take the "geo" part to actually 
mean "in the ground."  But am I correct in understanding it this way?

I also understand the term "geophyte" to indicate a dormant period in the 
annual growth cycle.  One definition I saw somewhere defined geophytes as 
herbaceous perennials etc.  An above-ground bulb might fit that definition 
if for part of each year it were totally leafless.

Where Clivia are concerned, I am not sure that the roots store much 
food.  In any case, I think that in nature a lot of clivia plants have most 
of their roots on the surface of the soil rather than in the ground.  On 
the other hand, in containers, old clivia plants often have a caudix-like 
main underground root -- or is it just an extension of the crown?  Anyway, 
Clivia seem to be honorary bulbs by reason of family relationships, sort of 
like guilt by association.


1)  a) Does in fact the "geo" in "geophyte" mean "in the ground" 
or   b)  can it also mean "on the ground"?

2)  a)  Does a plant have to be an herbaceous perennial to be a 
geophyte?   b)  Does a plant have to have a leafless period in each annual 
growth cycle to be a geophyte?

3)  If a caudiciform plant were an herbaceous perennial, etc., why should 
it not also be a geophyte?

Jim Shields
in central Indiana, where so far the winter ice storm has not hit us

Jim Shields             USDA Zone 5             Shields Gardens, Ltd.
P.O. Box 92              WWW:
Westfield, Indiana 46074, USA
Tel. ++1-317-867-3344     or      toll-free 1-866-449-3344 in USA

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