10 Types of tropical rainforest plants

Last Updated on February 2, 2023 by Clarisse Walters

Tropical Rainforest Plants Adaptations

Tropical rainforests experience extreme conditions in which plants cannot survive without special adaptations. The climate is consistent all year round, with 200 mm of rainfall a year and warm temperatures of about 28 degrees Celsius. The following adaptations enable plants to survive in these conditions. 

  • Drip tip leaves- the leaves of these plants have pointed ends that allow rainwater to flow to the ground without damaging the plant quickly. 
  • Buttress roots- the roots are massive and have ridges that increase the surface area to support large and heavy trees.
  • Lianas adaptations-the vines grow from the ground and climb above the canopy of the tall trees to reach sunlight. The leaves and flowers grow in the canopy.
  • Coffee plant adaptation-coffee plants grow best in rich fertile soil and appreciate shade with a lot of rainfall. The tall trees in tropical rainforests filter the sun so that coffee does not receive it directly. 

Tropical Rainforest Trees

Tropical rainforests have some unique trees different from those growing in temperate regions. With the forests receiving over 200 mm of rain per year, some trees are gigantic with large canopies. The buttress roots provide enough anchorage for the large trees to stand in the shallow forest soils. 

A lowland tropical rainforest mainly consists of three layers. The first layer is tall trees scattered and towering over a thick layer of canopy trees, and the third layer of short trees. Below are some tropical rainforest trees. 

  • Ramón tree 
  • Kapok tree 
  • Ipe
  • Xate
  • Rubber tree 
Tropical rainforest crops
The Cacao tree is a feature of tropical South America

Rare Rainforest Plants

Rainforests are home to many plant species, some rare and mysterious. The following are scarce plants of the rainforests.

Common name Scientific name Bloom time 
Corpse flower Amorphophallus titanumIt is native to Indonesia in the western Sumatra rainforest. It takes about 7 to 9 years to bloom; some bloom once in decades.  orchids OrchidaceaeThere are several species of orchids in the rainforest that bloom in spring and fall. 
Amazon Water Lily Victoria AmazonicaIt is native to the Amazon River basin and blooms throughout September. 
Monkey cup or tropical pitcher plant NepenthesIt is common in Borneo, Sumatra, and the Philippines, especially in the Borneo rainforest. It blossoms in April or May. 
Durian FruitDurio It is native to Malaysia, Borneo, and Indonesia. It flowers once a year after a 1 -2-month dry spell. 
10 Types of tropical rainforest plants
Rare Rainforest Plants

10 types of incredible tropical rainforest plants:

1. Airplants (epiphytes)

Airplants are epiphytes, meaning they do not require soil to grow. They are non-parasitic and only need their host for support. They acquire their food from the air within the dirt fibers and moisture. These plants implement their roots to attach themselves to the supporting body. 

An airplant blooms once in its lifetime, but it produces offspring in this single time. The offspring remains attached to the mother plant or can use a delicate twist to segregate. 

  • Airplants grow best in full light but not in direct sunlight
  • They need water to grow, but you need to be careful when watering. The leaf tip curls and turns brown with less water, while overwatering makes the leaves soggy.
  • They grow best in warm temperatures since they are from warm tropical climates
  • You can propagate them by cutting the plant’s “pup.’
Tropical rainforest epiphytes
Airplant growing on wood

2. Banana Tree

Banana is one of the most common and popular fruits in the world. It is native to Southeast Asia, though it has spread worldwide, and people love it for its flavor and nutritional contribution.

Popularly called a “banana tree,” the plant is an herbaceous plant or herb. It is not an actual tree because its trunk lacks true woody tissue. It grows in upright, fleshy stalks that bear huge oval bright green leaves. 

It grows about 2 to 30 feet tall and spreads up to 15 feet. It displays showy purple flowers in spring, which develop into the long, fleshy green fruits that turn yellow when ripe. There are various varieties of these tropical plants for each region and climate worldwide. 

Banana fruits have many health benefits.

  • It is perfect for pregnant women
  • It increases stamina and energy
  •  It is ideal for weight loss
  • It regulates high blood pressure
  • It contains calcium that strengthens bones
Tropical rainforest herbs
Cultivated banana trees

3. Bougainvillea 

It is a thorny shrub or a natural climber that grows on building exteriors by climbing on trellis or fences. It is native to South America and grows best in sub-tropical to tropical climatic conditions.

It is famous for its green foliage and vibrant purple, pink, and orange hues that many people confuse for flowers. The hues are petal-like bracts, and they cover the plant’s actual blooms, tiny yellow or white buds. 

Bougainvillea is an excellent ornamental hedge plant and an ideal ground cover to preserve soil fertility. It is perfect for beds and borders, wall-side borders, fences, and small gardens. 

tropical rainforest plants

4. Bromeliads 

It is a tropical perennial that belongs to the same family as terrestrial species and epiphytes. It is native to the subtropical and tropical regions of America.

They are famous for their gorgeous foliage though some splashy display blooms. The foliage consists of leaves in shades of green, orange, purple, red, and yellow adorned with spots, bands, and stripes, among other features. 

They are slow growers and can take about three years to mature and bloom. They make beautiful decorations as a houseplant as they need low maintenance and less water.

Tropical rainforest plants
Multi-colored broemeliads growing

5. Cacao Tree 

 The cacao tree is an evergreen that grows in humid and warm climates but can thrive in a greenhouse. The oblong 4- to 8-inch-long leaves are glossy and medium green and last year-round.

It bears small fragrant blooms directly on the tree trunk and branches throughout the year. The flowers grow into seedpods 12 inches long and 3-inch diameter. The pods take several months to mature and turn from green to yellow-orange. 

The cacao tree is used as food in various forms; here are some food products from this tree.

  • Cocoa butter
  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate liquor
  • Cocoa solids  
Tropical rainforest crops
Cacao tree with cacao pods

6. Corpse flower

The corpse flower, also known as titan arum, is native to Indonesia, particularly in the rainforests of western Sumatra. It grows at the low elevations of limestone hills. It produces a large leaf and inflorescence and has to grow at the forest opening to access adequate space and light to bloom. 

It produces the most enormous and worst-smelling flower globally after 7 to 9 years. It smells like rotting flesh when blooming. The flower is so rare due to the long period a single one takes to prepare to bloom and begin a life cycle. 

Rare rainforest flowers
Corpse Flower (Titan arum)

7. Orchids 

There are more than 25000 species of orchids growing on earth. Most of them are native to tropical rainforests, but a few can survive in semi-deserts. Some grow in tundra regions and others near the seashore. Most neotropical orchid varieties dominate northwest south America, southern central America, and areas along the Andes mountains.

Some orchid varieties are ideal as ornamental houseplants and for growing in gardens as showy flowering plants. They will display lovely flowers in purple, pink, blue, orange, white, red, green, and yellow shades under the right conditions. If you want to grow orchids, select the suitable cultivar for your zone and the correct potting mix. 

types of rainforest flowers
Tiger Orchid flowers

8. Passion Flower (Passiflora)

Passion is a perennial vine, but some species grow as annual shrubs or trees. Some varieties produce edible passion fruits if grown in ideal conditions, like a pollinator garden. The plant produces unique flowers that last open for a day. The flower has a flat base and five to ten petals spread from a reflex or flat circle. 

A passion plant can grow about 6 to 30 feet tall and 3 to 6 feet wide. It produces blue, white, pink, or purple blooms in summer. The flowers from garden passion plants develop into edible fruits with many proven health benefits. 

Tropical rainforest plants

9. Rubber Tree 

The rubber tree is a unique evergreen plant native to the southeastern Asia tropics. It flaunts large, oval, emerald leaves. It is a fast grower that can grow up to 100 feet tall in its natural habitat. It is also a perfect houseplant where its size is manageable. It rarely blooms, and it is toxic to cats and dogs

It is a raw material for many rubber products, such as vehicle tires. It is a perfect heat and electrical insulator. It is used in making shock absorbers due to its elasticity. 

Tropical rainforest trees
Rubber Latex extracted from rubber tree

10. Victorian Water Lily 

The Victorian water lily is a tropical plant with the largest leaves among all aquatic plants. A single leaf can cover up to 3 meters in diameter when floating on water.

The largest species is the giant water lily. If the weight is spread across the delicate surface, the leaf can also support heavy weights, including a human being. 

It produces a beautiful flower that lasts two to three days before sinking in the water. It is native to the tropical regions of South America. It grows as a short-lived perennial in the deeper and warmer waters in the tributaries of the Amazon River. 

Tropical rainforest plant adaptations
Victoria Water Lily (Victoria amazonica)

Other resources related to tropical rainforest plants:

Tropical Rainforest Plants List, Information, Pictures & Facts

The Plants of the Tropical Rainforest | Voyagers Travel

25+ Wonderful & Exotic Tropical Rainforest Plants – Outforia

Animals and Plants of the Rain Forest – Arbor Day Foundation

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