Common characteristics of tropical trees:
Tropical species frequently possess one or more of the following attributes not
seen in trees of higher latitudes.
- Buttresses: many species have
broad, woody flanges at the base of the trunk. Originally believed to help
support the tree, now it is believed that the buttresses channel stem flow and
its dissolved nutrients to the roots.
- Large leaves are common among
trees of the C layer. Young individuals of trees destined for the B and A
layers may also have large trees. When the reach the canopy new leaves will be
smaller. The large leaf surface helps intercept light in the sun-dappled lower
strata of the forest.
- Drip tips facilitate drainage
of precipitation off the leaf to promote transpiration. They occur in the
lower layers and among the saplings of species of the emergent layer (A
Other characteristics that distinguish tropical species of trees from those of
temperate forests include
- Exceptionally thin bark, often only 1-2 mm thick.
Usually very smooth, although sometimes armed with spines or thorns.
- Cauliflory, the development of
flowers (and hence fruits) directly from the trunk, rather than at the tips of
branches. This can allow trees to be pollinated or have their seeds dispersed
by animals which cannot climb or fly
- Large fleshy fruits attract
birds, mammals, and even fish as dispersal agents.