More than two-thirds of the earth's plant species live in tropical rain forests, so there are a wide variety of rain forest plants. These plants thrive in hot, humid environments. While some tropical rain forest plants grow in full sun, most of them are below the rain forest's canopy and must compete with many other plants for sunlight. They have adapted to grow well in those conditions.
The strangler fig is a rain forest tree that has learned to adapt to rain forest conditions. Because lower plants don't get as much light as plants at the top of the rain forest canopy, the strangler fig actually starts out growing on another tree. It wraps around the host tree as it grows, producing a profuse amount of branches, leaves and flowers. The host tree is eventually killed by the strangler fig, as it cannot get any light. The strangler fig's roots mature and reach the ground, making the tree self-supporting. The host tree decomposes within the strangler fig. This tree produces small, round fruit that birds love to eat. The birds help to spread strangler fig seeds through their droppings.
The passionflower is native to the rain forests of Brazil. More than 500 varieties of this flower exist, in shades such as red, blue, yellow and white. Passionflower plants produce a vine with bright green evergreen flowers. Passionflower flowers grow in one-foot long clusters of 12 to 15 flowers. The flowers are about 5 inches long and shaped like a bowl. Passionflowers also attract birds and bees. As well as the flower, passionflower plants also produce passion fruit. That fruit is eaten by birds and animals, as well as people.
The jade vine is an evergreen vine that is native to tropical rain forests in the Philippines. This vine cannot handle frost, so can't be grown in colder temperatures. This twining vine can grow up to 70 feet long. It produces thick, woody stems and green leaves that grow between 3 inches and 5 inches long. In the spring and early summer, the jade vine produces flowers that are bluish green and are shaped like claws. The flowers come in clusters that hang from the vine and are about 5 feet long. These flowers are often grown in Hawaii and are used in leis. Jade vines grow best when its roots are in a shady spot, but the top of the vine is in the full sun.
- Photo Credit giant tree trunk base image by Marta Reimpell from Fotolia.com
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