Reaching down to grow up

Khao Yai National Park, Thailand, nature, wildlife, rainforest,, canopy, strangler fig

It’s a hard start in life for most rainforest trees. A thick ceiling of leaves blocks the light to the forest floor, leaving seedlings in wait for a tree to fall and space to become available. Even then, a tree has to race all of its competitors to the top in order to get a space in the sun.

But one plant completely subverts this order. The strangler fig starts life up in the sunshine, germinating on the branches of existing trees. Then as the plant grows it gradually stretches its roots down to the ground, wrapping around its unknowing host. Eventually, the fig’s roots will grow so large that they engulf and completely kill its host. Although this tree may sound kind of evil, the fruits of the fig are an incredibly important food source to many rainforest animals.

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