Describe and explain the main plant adaptations in a tropical rainforest environment.

The red leaves at the centre of a bromeliad are the youngest ones. (Credit: Jungle Music Net)

Most plants in the tropical rainforest have adapted to the strong sunlight, heavy rain, thin soils and dark conditions in the undergrowth. For example some trees, such as the kapok, grow very tall because of the competition for sunlight. Also some leaves have flexible stems so they can turn toward the sun, another adaptation is the leaves of the rubber plant that have a drip tip so that heavy rainfall can drip off the leaf quickly so that the leaves don’t become mouldy. Another thing about leaves is that young leaves may be red, the redness acts as a sunscreen so the plant isn’t burnt by the strong sunlight whilst it is still developing, you can see this on the new central leaves of a bromeliad. There are also buttress roots, these are huge ridges at the base of the tree, they help the tallest of the trees to stay upright because the soil in the rainforest is actually very thin, the giant fig tree is a good example of this. Finally, most rainforest tree bark is thin and smooth, this is because it allows water to slide down easily. These are all adaptations that plants have made in order to thrive in the tropical rainforest environment.

rubber tree leaves
The leaves of the rubber tree have drip tips (Credit: San Diego Zoo)

Don’t go wrong on an easy question#1

In your exam there will be some questions that SHOULD be fairly straightforward, you could even call them easy questions. However, Geography Cat has noticed that some very good students sometimes lose marks on the “easy questions”.


This question asks “What is urban sprawl?”

It’s just one example of the hundreds of key geographical terms that the examiner expects you to know. Therefore you need to make sure you learn ALL your key words (urban sprawl is the spread of building developments such as housing and shopping centres onto previously undeveloped land on the edges of towns and cities, by the way).

Don’t just use the words of the question in the answer.

For example: What is a trade group? Bad answer – It is a group of countries that trade. Good Answer – It is a number of countries who agree to work together to remove tariffs and quotas between themselves, so that they can trade together more easily and cheaply.

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