Rainforest Plant Adaptations: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michelle Jones

Michelle has taught at the elementary level and has earned a master's degree.

Like animals, plants have certain characteristics that help them survive. This lesson explores what adaptations rainforest plants have that help them live in their extreme environment.

What is a Rainforest Like?

Imagine how different your life would be if you lived in a place that was hot all year long and rained almost every day. How would you change what you did for fun or what kind of clothes you wore? The rainforest climate is very hot and wet. The plants that live there have adaptations, or specialized parts and functions, that help them survive this unique climate near the equator.

All plants need water, air, nutrients, and sunlight to grow. If they get too much or too little of any of these, they may not live. Let's look at how the roots, leaves, and bark of rainforest plants have adapted to meet these requirements.

The green area is where rainforests are located.
Map of where rainforests are located

Roots

We don't see the roots of most plants because they are below the ground. But in a rainforest, the roots in most of the trees are actually above the ground! The soil in a rainforest is not deep but is very wet. To deal with this, roots stay close to the surface or even above the ground so they don't soak up too much water.

Think about when you were learning how to ride a bike. You probably had two extra wheels to make the bike more stable as you learned to balance. Rainforest trees grow very tall, so their roots will actually grow up and out of the ground all around it to keep it from tipping over just like your training wheels helped you!

The roots of this palm tree are growing above the ground.
Picture of a palm tree with its roots growing out of the ground

Leaves

Usually when we see colorful leaves on trees and plants, it's because it is autumn. Some leaves in the rainforest are colorful all year long. You may see red, pink, and purple leaves. Many young plants in the rainforest have this adaptation to protect them from getting too much sun. Sunlight will actually reflect off of these colors.

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