noun, plural: saprophytes
(botany) An organism (especially a plant or plant-like) that feeds, absorbs or grows on decaying organic matter.
The term saprophyte is no longer in popular use since there are no true embryophytes or true plants that are saprophytic in nature. Plants that are once thought of as saprophytes such as orchids and monotropes are now considered parasites on fungi. Organisms feeding on dead organic matter such as fungi and bacteria are no longer categorized as plants or belonging to the Plant Kingdom. Hence, a more appropriate term to describe such organisms is saprotroph (or saprophage or saprobe).
Word origin: Gr. Phyton = plant.
Related form: saprophytic (adjective)