Phytotelma (plural phytotelmata) is a term for water bodies held by terrestrial plants. The water accumulated within these plants may serve as the habitat for associated fauna and flora. Often the faunae associated with phytotelmata are unique. Some species also are of great practical significance; for example, immature stages of some mosquitoes, such as some Anopheles and Aedes species that are important disease vectors, develop in phytotelmata.
A rich literature in German summarised by Thienemann (1954) developed many aspects of phytotelm biology. Reviews of the subject by Kitching (1971) and Maguire (1971) introduced the concept of phytotelmata to English-speaking readers. A multi-authored book edited by Frank and Lounibos (1983) dealt in 11 chapters with classification of phytotelmata, and with phytotelmata provided by bamboo internodes, banana leaf axils, bromeliad leaf axils, Nepenthes pitchers, Sarracenia pitchers, tree holes, and Heliconia flower bracts.
A classification of phytotelmata by Kitching (2000) recognizes five principal types: bromeliad tanks, certain carnivorous plants such as pitcher plants, water-filled tree hollows, bamboo internodes, and axil water (collected at the base of leaves, petals or bracts); it concentrated on food webs. A review by Greeney (2001) identified seven forms: tree holes, leaf axils, flowers, modified leaves, fallen vegetative parts (e.g. leaves or bracts), fallen fruit husks, and stem rots.
The word "phytotelma" derives from the Ancient Greek roots phyto-, meaning 'plant', and telma, meaning 'pond'. Thus, the correct singular is phytotelma.
The term was coined by L. Varga in 1928.
The correct pronunciation is phytotēlma and phytotēlmata because of the Greek origin (the stressed vowels are here written as ē).