One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Any of various plants growing without soil and especially in an elevated place (as certain tropical orchids, bromeliads, etc.), which absorb water from the atmosphere through their leaves.
Mid 19th century; earliest use found in John Timbs (1801–1875), author. From aero- + -phyte, probably after French aérophyte. Compare Italian aerofito.
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