The giant in our backyard

Last week I discovered a whole new magical place, a full ecosystem in our backyard. It is this tree:

Climbing up in it for the first time you see mosses and ferns cover it’s branches.

But, so do large plants, which live in the soil collected and produced by the mosses and lichens.

Succulents and epiphytes grow on top, and hang underneath the branches.

The afternoon sun lights up the leaves of a delicate bromeliad.

Shrubs live up in the tree too. Some very special shrubs. See the large root nodule on this moss covered branch? It is the root of a medium sized shrub which, I believe, harbors colonies of protective ants. At least, I think that’s what they were protecting when they bit me so viciously.

You find new surprises at any level, from big shrubs down to tiny plants hiding underneath small plants.

Here’s a branch for you. Count the large plants. At least three types, right? Also, the upper right of the picture is just another similar branch.

A close up of the same branch above. Now look at the small plants underneath the larger ones. The tree is itself a small multi-layered forest of epiphytes, ferns, and mosses.

There is also a meadow up there, covering a couple of branches.

The meadow is just starting to bloom, too.

At times the tree is something like a baroque still-life painting, teaming with too much detail to be believed.

And yet, there it is. Right in our back yard.