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Plants that live in the emergent layer

Updated February 21, 2017

The emergent layer is the top layer of the rainforest. Rising 40 m (130 feet) or more in the air, this layer is home to relatively few plants. Plants that do survive include massive trees and vines, flowers and other vegetation that have adapted to the rainforest by relying on the trees for help getting sunlight and rain.

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Kapok tree

The Kapok tree is one of the giants of the rainforest, growing to 45 m (150 feet) or higher. The top of the tree branches out like an open umbrella, providing homes for birds and mammals. Flowers on the Kapok tree appear pale pink or creamy white and emit an odour that ensures bats will visit and pollinate them.

Brazil nut tree

The Brazil nut tree also towers over the rainforest. In many ways, the Brazil nut tree is the workhorse of the Amazon. Brazil nuts and latex, both of which can be gathered from the tree, help form an economic base for those relying on the rainforest.


Many types of orchids grown in the rainforest, including several that can grow in the lower portion of the emergent layer. Two factors help orchids survive in the higher portion of the rainforest. The first is that some orchids have aeriel roots, meaning that the flowers have adapted to gather moisture from the air rather than the group. The second is that some orchids grow up trees in order to get to areas with sunlight.


Vines also live in the emergent layer. Species such as lianas and thye strangler fit, wrap around trees using their thorns, roots and tendrils to grow up toward sunlight and rain. Such vines may reach the emergent layer depending on the type of tree they're growing on and the age of the vine.

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About the Author

Rachel Frost began writing professionally in 2001 and works primarily in internal communications, marketing and corporate publication management. Frost writes externally for various websites. She holds a bachelor's degree in public communications from Buffalo State College and a Masters of Business Administration with a marketing concentration from Canisius College.

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