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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Lithophyte \Lith"o*phyte\, n. [Litho- + Gr. ? plant: cf. F. lithophyte.] (Zo["o]l.) A hard, or stony, plantlike organism, as the gorgonians, corals, and corallines, esp. those gorgonians having a calcareous axis. All the lithophytes except the corallines are animals.


n. 1 (context biology English) Any plant that lives grows on rocks, obtaining nourishment from rain and the atmosphere. 2 (context zoology English) Any organism, such as a coral, resembling a stony plant.


n. plant that grows on rocks or stony soil and derives nourishment from the atmosphere [syn: lithophytic plant]


Lithophytes are plants that grow in or on rocks. Those that grow on rocks are also known as epipetric or epilithic plants. Lithophytes feed off nutrients from rain water and nearby decaying plants, including their own dead tissue. Chasmophytes grow in fissures in rocks where soil or organic matter has accumulated.

Examples of lithophytes include several Paphiopedilum orchids, ferns, many algae and liverworts. Species that only grow on rock or gravel are obligate lithophytes. Species that grow on rocky substrate and elsewhere are facultative lithophytes.

As nutrients tend to be rarely available to lithophytes or chasmophytes, many species of carnivorous plants can be viewed as being pre-adapted to life on rocks. By consuming prey, these plants can gather more nutrients than non-carnivorous lithophtytes. Examples include the pitcher plants Nepenthes campanulata and Heliamphora exappendiculata, many Pinguicula and several Utricularia species.