Under a mature rainforest canopy, there is very
little undergrowth because the trees overhead block almost all of the sunlight from reaching the ground. The few low growing shrubs that
do occur here are adapted for low light levels, a fact which has made many of these species popular as potted houseplants elsewhere
in the world!
Left: Hibiscus flowers are brightly colored, and usually lower growing, making them popular as cultivated plants. Below: The orange blossoms of this tree are most abundant at the ends of branches, where they are most accessible to pollinating animals. Photos by Maya Walters.
the tallest rainforest trees reach 70 meters in height. These giants do not grow in dense patches, but are scattered through the forest,
extending high above the usual canopy height of about 50 meters. The most productive and interesting part of the habitat is often high in
the crowns of the trees, but the rainforest canopy is only just beginning be studied in detail. Flowers, fruits, seeds, leaves, are all produced
in the highest quantities in this upper layer of the forest, so naturally this is where foraging mammals, birds, even reptiles and amphibians
will be most abundant. The majority of tropical mammals are arboreal (spending most or all of their time in the trees), compared to
temperate mammals, most of which are terrestrial. Beneath the rainforest canopy is an understory of young trees, usually about 15 meters
Throughout the forest grow vines and epiphytes. Epiphytes are "air plants", and grow directly on the branches and trunks of trees, sending no roots down to the forest floor. Vines do grow from the ground, but use trees for support. These types of plants are extremely abundant in humid rainforests, but decrease in areas where there is a definite dry season. Vines are a major feature in some forests, competing with trees for light and nutrients, and providing animals with convenient travel routes between trees. Some vines eventually kill their "host" trees, but most are harmless, unless they grow so thickly that the trees can no longer support their weight.
[plants] [forest life]
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