Characteristics of a Canopy Tree

Made up of several vertical levels, or layers, the rain forest is densely packed with vegetation. The topmost layer contains the tallest trees, which can tower 200 feet high. The second highest layer is referred to as the "canopy" and is considered the primary layer of the forest. It is home to most of the animals that live in the rain forest: monkeys, snakes, birds and tree frogs.


The size, shape and color of the leaves of canopy trees vary with their position on the tree. Upper leaves are small and waxy to help them retain water. Lower leaves are darker blue-green, shaded from direct sun by the leaves on the upper part of the tree. Canopy tree leaves are not produced all at once, as are those of most deciduous trees. This helps protect them from being eaten by leaf predators.

Continuous Fruiting and Flowering

Many species of rain forest canopy trees produce fruit and flowers virtually all year long, similar to the habit of citrus trees that often have flowers and fruit simultaneously. Other species have evolved to fruit at different times than their neighbors, providing an abundance of food at all times for the fauna of the rain forest.


Canopy trees cannot rely on the wind to pollinate them, as can the trees that make up the upper story of the rain forest. Consequently, canopy trees depend on insects, birds and animals to spread their pollen. Insects such as bees, beetles, flies, butterflies and moths, as well as bats and birds have coevolved with rain forest canopy trees to facilitate the pollination of their flowers.

Keywords: characteristics canopy tree, rainforest canopy trees, rainforest trees

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Sharon Sweeny has a college degree in general studies and worked as an administrative and legal assistant for 20 years before becoming a freelance writer in 2008. She specializes in writing about home improvement, self-sufficient lifestyles and gardening.