Most stranglers are members of the fig family. In Spanish they are known as matapalo - 'killer tree'. The seed of the strangler fig starts life as an epiphyte high in the trees, borne by birds and monkeys which eat the fig fruit. The seedling fig sends down long roots to the ground from where it begins to surround the host tree. It grows quickly and eventually suffocates the host: when the host tree dies it leaves an enormous upright strangler with a hollow core.
By using an adult tree as its host, the strangler fig avoids competition for light and nutrients at ground level.