Popularized by film and television's Tarzan as he swung from tree to tree in the jungle, rainforest liana plants are woody vines that climb and encircle trees while rooted to the ground. Liana plants are not valued for their commercial properties, but rather are a part of the rainforest's multifaceted ecosystem.
Liana Plants are Most Often Found in Rainforests
A plant in the vine family, liana plants are found in the tropical rainforests 90 percent of the time, according to the Cal Institute of Technology's website.
Liana Include Other Types of Plants
Liana plants, according to the Cal Institute of Technology's website, include more than vine-like woody plants. Rattan palms, philodendron and Strychnos toxifera are also considered lianas but have different features. Rattan palms are native to Asia, have thorny stems, can grow only 650 feet and are often used to make furniture and baskets. Strychnos toxifera is known containing poisonous strychnine.
Liana Plants Climb Toward Sunlight
According to Cal Institute of Technology's website, liana plants are a type of climbing vine that can grow up to 3,000 feet in length as they vertically wrap around trees in search of sunlight. Liana plants climb by wrapping around trees with sucker roots and tendrils.
There are Three Popular Types of Liana Plants
According to the website JunglePhotos, the three most common liana plants are knotted lianas, twisting lianas and monkey ladders. Like its name, the knotted liana grows in circular, "knotted" formations, creating braided loops that can grow vertically, horizontally, or in a continuous loop. Twisting lianas make their home around trees or other plants by twisting their way around the host's trunk and branches in a corkscrew. The monkey ladder, which is used by some cultures for its medicinal or craft purposes, hangs from trees and has step-like indentations.
Liana Plants are Needed by Animals
Liana plants are an important part to the rainforest, as their rope-like trunks are used by animals to move from tree to tree, protecting them from prey on the ground. Animals and birds also enjoy the fruit and flowers of the liana plant.
Liana Plants Can Be Uprooted
Like trees, liana plants can be uprooted if they are attached to a tree that is chopped down. However, liana plants will protect a tree from strong storm winds by helping anchor it (and itself) to the ground.