Characteristics of Rain Forest Plants


Although rain forests cover only about 6 percent of the earth, they contain about half the known species of plants and animals. This diversity has led to special adaptations not found in temperate forest plants.


It never freezes or frosts in most rain forests; plants that grow there usually cannot withstand cold temperatures that occur in northern latitude climates. High humidity levels, above 50 to 60 percent, are usually constant and supplement water needs.


In tropical latitudes, the sun intensity is much brighter than areas closer to the poles. Plants in these areas have adapted thick waxy leaves that are capable of tolerating very bright warm sunlight.


Plants that grow in rain forests typically cannot tolerate drying out for a long period and water storage organs usually are absent. Many plants have developed drip points that channel large amounts of water off the leaves, as a gutter does on a house.


The soil in a rain forest is usually very poor. This has led plants to develop other means of obtaining nutrition, such as by being parasites on other plants or by absorbing nutrients directly from decaying plant matter much as a fungus does.


Competition and predation have led some plants to grow very rapidly and sometimes produce natural toxins to deter predation by insects and animals. Another way of ensuring success is to reproduce very rapidly and smother competitors.


  • CalTech: What is a Rainforest?
  • Radford University: Tropical Broadleaf Evergreen Forest: The Rainforest

Who Can Help

  • Amazon Interactive
  • Botany
Keywords: plant adaptation, plant diversity, parasitic plant

About this Author

Brian Albert has been in the publishing industry since 1999. He is an expert in horticulture, with a focus on aquatics and tropical plants like orchids. He has successfully run an aquatic plant business for the last five years. Albert's writing experience includes the Greater Portland Aquarium Society newsletter and politics coverage for a variety of online journals.