Tropical rain forests are home to the world’s most diverse and ecologically complex plant communities. A single hectare – 2.5 acres – of rainforest may contain nearly 1,000 plant species.
The sheer number of plants, their adaptations, and the rarity of many species make the tropical rain forest community an unusual and important ecosystem. Because of this diversity, the roles, or niches, of individual plant and animal species have evolved in close quarters and fierce competition.
For example, insects in rain forests may specialize in a specific zone of the forest. They never leave the canopy or the forest floor to explore the rest of their environment.
Plants have evolved similarly. Some have become excellent early colonizers like the Cecropia tree or fast climbers like the Swiss cheese plant. Others are understory specialists like the Panama flame tree, or majestic canopy trees like the rubber tree. You can see all of these plants right here in the Tropics.