What Are Types of Plants in Tropical Rainforests?

types-plants-tropical-rainforests Credit: Thomas Shahan/CC-BY 2.0

Tropical rainforests serve as homes to many plants, including bromeliads, epiphytes, buttress roots, lianas, orchids, figs and saprophytes, along with several carnivorous plants. Tropical rainforests house over two-thirds of Earth's plant species. Plants thrive in these rainforests thanks to warm, moist air and fertile soils.

Tropical rainforest plants exist at all levels of the forest biome, although most grow on the ground. Others, called aerial plants, live higher up on the branches or trunks of trees. They feature air roots, which absorb water and nutrients from the surrounding air.

Regardless of where they live, tropical rainforest plants differ in physical appearance. Some, like strangler figs, exist as long, thin brown vines while orchids and bromeliads produce beautiful flowers. Some plants live harmoniously in their shared space, but others constantly compete for limited resources, particularly sunlight. Plants on the forest floor only receive a tiny portion of the sunlight shining through. To survive, they develop unique adaptation strategies. Strangler figs, for instance, grow vertically up trees. They act as parasites, robbing trees of nutrients and resources.

Orchids rely on brilliant colors for survival. Their bright leaves attract pollinators, in turn facilitating their reproduction. The orchid family contains over 25,000 species, most of which live in the rainforest. Due to habitat loss and cultivation, however, many species face threats of extinction and endangerment.