Monday, July 18, 2011

Types of Plants in the Rainforest

Carnivorous Plants in the Rainforest: Plants which obtain nutrients from animal matter are known as carnivorous plants. Venus fly trap and the pitcher plant Nepenthes rafflesiana from south east Asia are the best examples of carnivorous plants. Nepenthes rafflesiana grows as high as 30 feet and has pitchers of about 12 inches in length, They have a cavity filled with either sweet or terrible smelling nectar that attracts insects and they are always overcrowded with digested insects! The biggest flower in the world is seen on the trees of Rafflesia, which grow in the Indonesian rainforests. The most amazing fact about the pitcher plants is that they also eat small mammals and reptiles who try to steal the insects from the pitcher.

Rainforest Plants
Strangler Plants in the Rainforest: Stranglers mostly come from the fig family. They are also called 'killer trees'. The seed starts growing as an epiphyte, high in the trees. Epiphytes are the trees which derive moisture and nutrients from the air and rain and usually grow on another plant. But they are not parasitic on it. The list of epiphytes includes orchids, philodendrons, ferns and bromeliads. The aerial plants have so called 'air roots' and air is the source of nourishment for them. Poison ivy vines have many small aerial roots. The seeds of these plants are borne and transported by birds and monkeys which eat the fig fruits. The seedlings develop long roots down to the ground and start surrounding the host tree. They grow quickly and the growth eventually suffocates the host, resulting in its death. The host tree leaves a huge upright strangler which has a hollow core. This is the best example of how plants adopt themselves to survive in the given specific environment. The strangler fig uses an adult tree as its host so that it doesn't have to struggle for light and nutrients at ground level.

Lianas in the Rainforest: Ninety per cent of the world's vine species are found in tropical rainforests. Lianas are climbing vines which are present throughout tropical rainforests. The thick, woody stems of lianas are of various lengths (up to 3,000 ft) and shapes. They need sunlight for survival and so they climb upwards towards light after beginning the life on the forest floor. For this they depend on trees for support. They bind themselves to trees with sucker roots or tendrils. They climb up while growing, by winding themselves round the supporting tree's trunk. They jump to other trees or start wrapping themselves around other lianas, after arriving at the top of the canopy layer of the rainforest. In this way they create a network of vines which provides the shallow-rooted, top-heavy trees, a very strong support. This helps them to survive against strong winds. Rattan palms, philodendron and Strychnos toxifera are some examples of lianas. The deadly poison strychnine is obtained from Strychnos toxifera. Rattans from Asia have thorny stems and they grow as tall as 650 feet (200 m). Baskets, ropes and wicker furniture is made from them.

Plants with Stilt or Prop Roots: Mangroves grow in wet, muddy soil at the water's edge. They need a good support as there is always the risk of tides and flooding. They develop several aerial pitchfork-like extensions from the trunk which grow downwards. With the help of these stilt roots, they anchor themselves in the soil trapping sediment and acquire the required stability.

Plants with Buttress Roots: Rainforest trees have shallow roots as the soil has maximum nutrients left at the surface level. Therefore the tall trees develop buttressed roots to obtain the required additional support. Such roots grow out from the base of the trunk, sometimes as high as 15 ft above the ground which also help to absorb more nutrients from the soil by covering more area. Read more on Amazon rainforest plants

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