May 15, 2014

What is an Epiphyte?

If you have visited the Arnerich Massena office in Portland, you may have noticed the array of orchids that grace our hallways, conference rooms, and offices. While we love orchids, there is a deeper reason for including them in our décor. Orchids represent and remind us of our role in serving our clients, both as trusted partners and advisors. How so, you ask?

The majority of orchids are in a family of plants called epiphytes. An epiphyte is a plant that grows on another plant or tree but is not parasitic. Epiphytes include mosses, bromeliads, orchids, ferns, lichens, and algaes. They derive energy through photosynthesis and nutrients through water and organic matter collected on a host, but not from the host tree itself. They do not root into a host or steal nutrients from it. An epiphyte does not negatively affect its partner. Orchids in this family are often classified as “air plants” because they receive the majority of their nutrients and water through the air.

Epiphytes and their host trees operate in a symbiotic partnership that benefits both parties. The host benefits from the orchid because epiphytes retain water and act as an air conditioner for the host tree by reducing transpiration, or water loss, from the host tree. The epiphyte benefits by reaching higher into the canopy and having better access to sunlight and moisture.

Orchids, and epiphytes in general, serve as an analogy for the relationship Arnerich Massena strives for with our clients. In an investment environment in which investors complain about high fees and below-benchmark returns and where financial news headlines feature improprieties with investors’ hard-earned money, orchids represent an antithesis of all things bad in the financial world.

This metaphoric relationship between an epiphytic orchid and its host tree is what we strive for and are reminded of on a daily basis. We constantly endeavor to add value by:

  • Helping clients create better portfolios in line with their financial goals and needs;
  • Educating ourselves as advisors and analysts to ensure we provide independent thought, input, and knowledge to our clients and assist them in becoming better investors; and
  • Establishing long-term, symbiotic partnerships with our clients

So the next time you see an orchid, perhaps it will call to mind this deeper metaphor in addition to its beauty.