One of the strangest of plants is the strangler fig. It begins its life on the upper branches of a tree—any large tree—when a seed of its species, dropped by a bird or squirrel or some other animal, starts germinating. The seedling sends out roots that penetrate and feed on the trunk and branches of the host. As the plant grows, the roots become longer and encircle the tree.
The parasitic guest is no more than a nuisance at this stage but when it starts sending down roots to the soil to begin an independent existence, it is the beginning of the end for the host. The roots absorb nutrition from the ground and the plant becomes stronger and sends down still more roots.