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saprophyte (săpˈrəfītˌ), any plant that depends on dead plant or animal tissue for a source of nutrition and metabolic energy, e.g., most fungi (molds) and a few flowering plants, such as Indian pipe and some orchids. Most saprophytes do not produce chlorophyll and therefore do not photosynthesize; they are thus dependent on the food energy they absorb from the decaying tissues, which they help to break down.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a plant that feeds on the organic matter of dead organisms or on the excrement of living organisms. Their type of feeding places saprophytes in the group of heterotrophic organisms. Saprophytes and autotrophic organisms play an important role in the cycle of matter in nature; saprophytes promote the decomposition of carcasses and animal excrement into water, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and other inorganic compounds.

Saprophytes are found mainly among bacteria, actinomy-cetes, and fungi. Typical algal saprophytes are Polytoma of the family Chlamydomonadinaceae and Prototheca of the family Protococcales. Some saprophytes transfer to a parasitic mode of existence. A number of photosynthesizing organisms, such as some green algae, may also feed saprophytically.

Flowering plants of the families Pyrolaceae, Orchidaceae, and Burmanniaceae are sometimes considered as saprophytes, but it is more accurate to regard them as mycotrophic parasitic plants. The plants receive nutrient matter from the soil via a mycorrhizal fungus, and they are also marked by photosynthesis.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A plant that lives on decaying organic matter.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


any plant that lives and feeds on dead organic matter using mycorrhizal fungi associated with its roots; a saprotrophic plant
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Microbacterium spp are generally believed to be normal saprophytes of the external auditory canal, although one study showed that they were present in 9.5% of pretherapy AOE isolates.
Edible 40.54 Poisonous 21.62 Saprophytes 10.81 Plant pathogens 8.11 Deuteromycetes 5.41 Ascomycetes 5.41 Basidiomycetes 5.41 Umbrella-like 2.70 At what time of the year do mushrooms usually come out in the wild?
Since they are parasitic by nature, and not a saprophyte at this point, they are looking for live carbon sources in which to colonize.
In 2013, a survey was done by Lopez-Reyes GJ and his co-workers with the aim of studying alcoholic extract's effect and some other herbal types that the researchers in this project used Rosemary's alcoholic extract and its volumetric percentage on saprophyte fungus.
vaccae is an environmental saprophyte, which is thought to have immunogenic properties which enhance the host immune response.
pseudomallei is an aerobic, gram-negative, environmental saprophyte ubiquitous in soil and surface water (e.g., paddy fields) in disease-endemic areas.
In the study under the microscope, yeast cells were differentiated from saprophyte. In the case of yeast [Candida], the mass of the test tube were used.
Chromobacterium violaceum, a saprophyte bacterium found commonly in soil and water in tropical and subtropical climates, is a rare cause of severe, often fatal, human disease.
A flavus has a worldwide distribution, and it normally exists as a saprophyte in soil and on many types of decaying organic matter.
Histoplasmosis is caused by an infection with the dimorphic fungus H capsulatum var capsulatum, which is found as a soil saprophyte in areas contaminated with bird and bat droppings.