Plants like lianas climb tall trees to reach sunlight. At this level, they often spread out, further thickening the overhanging layer of branches and leaves. Various orchids and ferns grow on the surface of trees, forming another layer called the understory. These epiphytes feed on the runoff from the canopy.
Some epiphytes, called stranglers, extend their roots all the way to the forest floor and spread out to form a webbed structure around the base of the host tree. They even extend upward above the canopy. Thus deprived of sunlight and nutrients, the host tree eventually dies.
Rainforest trees and bacteria share a symbiotic relationship, with the tree providing food for the bacteria in the form of leaves and other organic matter that the bacteria break down into essential nutrients.This tree has become covered in epiphytes. Note the vines and thick root balls that have formed in the branches. (Photo courtesy Todd Fearer)
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