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Layers of the Rain Forest

A tropical rain forest is made up of four distinct layers.

  • Emergent Layer

    Only a few trees emerge from the forest to tower above the rest. These trees are exposed to harsh sun and strong winds. They are mostly hardwoods like teak and mahogany, with waxy leaves. Living in this emergent layer are eagles, some species of monkeys, flying insects, insect-eating snakes and bats.

  • Canopy

    This lush layer is made up of trees standing anywhere from 60 to 150 feet tall with large, leathery leaves that block 80% of the sunlight. There is a warm, humid habitat here with abundant fruits, nuts and leaves. Monkeys, sloths, tree frogs, margay cats, ants, beetles, bats, toucans, parrots, hummingbirds, snakes and lizards can be found here. Many never touch the forest floor in their lifetime.

  • Understory

    Here you’ll find shade-loving plants that reside under the canopy and receive little light. Some of our more popular house plants live in this layer and provide homes for butterflies, termites, toads, frogs, snakes, lizards, beetles and parakeets.

  • Forest Floor

    This layer receives only scattered rays of light. There are few flowering plants here, but edible roots and tubers abound. Tapirs, armadillos, peccaries, slugs, centipedes, cockroaches, termites, beetles and many decomposers live here.