Source: "Kids Do Ecology", University of California at Santa Barbara
PLANTS: One type of plant often found in a rainforest is an epiphyte. Epiphytes are plants that live on the surface of other plants, especially the trunks and branches. They often grow on trees to take advantage of sunlight in the canopy. In temperate rainforests common epiphytes are mosses and ferns, while in tropical rainforests there are many kinds of epiphytes, including orchids and bromeliads. There are more than 20,000 varieties of orchids found in the rainforest.
There are about 10 -2 0 species of trees in temperate rainforests that are mostly coniferous, meaning they have needles. Trees in temperate rainforests can live much longer than humans, some live for up to 1000 years! Tropical rainforests have a bigger variety of trees, hundreds of species in fact! These trees are mostly broadleaf trees and have a shorter lifespan. They usually live for 50 - 100 years.
Most trees in tropical rainforests have thin, smooth bark. They don’t need thick bark to keep them from drying out because the rainforest is so wet. Also, smooth bark makes it difficult for other plants, such as epiphytes, to grow on the tree surface. Trees often have buttresses, large branching ridges near the base, for support because their roots are often shallow and they grow tall to reach the sunlight. Prop roots also help support trees in shallow soils. Many plants in the rainforests have adapted leaf shapes that help water drip off the plant to avoid too much moisture, which might make bacteria and fungus grow.