Nearly 80% of all epiphytic species belong to only four families: Bromeliaceae, Orchidaceae, Polypodiaceae, and Araceae. Adaptations to life in the canopy have been examined extensively for the first three families but not for Araceae. To contribute to the understanding of the vegetative basis for epiphytism in the Araceae, the author studied influences of leaf structure on leaf water relations. Four species representing a hypothetical transition from ground to canopy were selected for study: Rhodospatha oblongata (secondary hemiepiphyte), Anthurium longifolium (shade epiphyte), Philodendron alternans (primary hemiepiphyte), and Philodendron crassinervium (sun epiphyte). Investigations were performed at Reserva Botánica das Aguas Claras, Rio de Janeiro state, southeastern Brazil (22°30'S; 42°30'W). The abiotic conditions along a vertical profile inside the forest indicated increasing drought and exposure toward the canopy. Structural and physiological traits were analyzed of adult plants of all species occurring at different heights on trees. Additionally, young individuals were studied to detect adaptations to establishment in the epiphytic strata. The results showed that higher heights in the forest were conquered with the aid of anatomical and physiological mechanisms, such as increasing leaf succulence, sclerophylly, and epidermal resistance to water loss.
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