High in the trees

If asked to think of a rain forest, most people probably imagine a wall of green stuff dripping with rain water, and insects eating you up. In fact, the cloud forest is very different. The forest “floor” is pretty open, the canopy shades the ground, and we haven’t been bothered by biting insects at all. It’s still pretty wet, though.

Cool kids in the jungle. The forest behind them is open enough to walk through.

Cool kids in the jungle cloud forest. The forest behind them is open enough to walk through.

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The leaves of these trees make a pretty effective sun shade.

This branch broke and brought its share of the canopy down. Leaves are positioned to maximize sun exposure.

This branch broke and brought its share of the canopy down on the trail. Leaves are positioned to maximize sun exposure.

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Looking out over an open area…

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… that was created when this tree fell. All kinds of fast-growing plants are filling the gap.

When a tree falls, “succession” starts, and fast-growing but feeble grasses, brushes and trees race to the top. Soon, they will be replaced by slow-growing, resistant, sturdy trees, and the forest floor will open up again since these rapidly growing species don’t deal very well with shade. According to a book I read, it takes just 15 years for this to happen, but that doesn’t mean that it goes back to original, “primary” rain forest – there are sites that are still changing hundreds of years after they’ve been cut! Now, that’s an argument for preserving what untouched rain forest we have left.

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