This article contributes a brief review of the ethnobotany and ontogeny of Heteropsis spp. (Araceae), reports the distribution and density of Heteropsis spp. in a tropical lowland rainforest in southern Venezuela, and explores the environmental variables that correlate best with the observed Heteropsis densities. Heteropsis occurred on 26% of the 4091 trees (≥10 cm DBH) inventoried in 67 plots (of 0.1 hectare, each). Mean Heteropsis colonization densities differed significantly between 11 local forest types and ranged from 0% (in seasonally deeply flooded forest and in semideciduous hill forest) to 74% (in sporadically flooded forest near small streams). Across forest types, Heteropsis occurred on a significantly greater number of trees between 20 and 50 cm DBH than expected for an even distribution over all size classes. Of the 90 most common potential host species in the plots, the giant herb Phenakospermum guyannense (L. C. Rich.) Endl. was the only one consistently and significantly avoided by Heteropsis, and no host species was significantly preferred across all forest types. Heteropsis densities were positively correlated with the depth of the fine root mat and the diversity of big lianas. They were negatively correlated with the concentration of exchangeable potassium, flooding depth, and the density of small lianas. We conclude that Heteropsis shows clear habitat preferences that reflect site differences in soil fertility, flooding regime and forest structure and could not be explained by the distribution of preferred or avoided host tree sizes or species.
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