Rainforest Trees and The Canopy: an introduction.

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The trees are the first thing one notices upon entering the rainforest. They are huge - up to 150 feet tall!


Prop roots, Belize.

Trees in the rainforest must grow rapidly to reach the sun at the canopy. To be competitive, they grow tall without growing as wide as trees in moderate climates. They have developed several methods of supporting great height without requiring great width. Having "prop roots" is one method of doing this.

The other method of supporting a tall tree is with "buttress roots". Because these trees are narrow and may not have any branches for the first 50 feet or so, they appear even taller than they are.

Buttress roots, Belize

Dr. Steve with buttress root.

This gives you some idea of how big these roots were. We thought this was a big tree until a few days later.....

...until a few days later when we found a really big tree! If you ever get a chance to visit the Tikal Biosphere Preserve in Guatemala, don't pass it up!

Tikal Biosphere Preserve, Guatemala

Cedar tree, Vancouver Island B.C., Canada

Contrary to popular belief, tropical rainforest trees are not taller than all trees in temperate climates. This is an old-growth cedar in the Broken Islands, off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. It was as awesome as any tropical forest tree I have ever seen!

But these trees are in as much danger of destruction as any - and you can help! See box below!

The Rainforest Action Network helps stop the harvesting of old-growth trees in the northwestern US and Canada, and helps protect the rainforests of the world. You can help! Once these trees are gone, they are gone forever!

Another way for plants to grow in the sunlight of the canopy is to start their growth there! Epiphytes (Latin for "upon the plant") grow right upon the bark of trees - not as parasites but absorbing nutrients as the bark breaks down over time. Some older trees have so many epiphytes that their branches break from the weight!

Epiphytes upon tree branch, Guatemala.

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