Caribbean Rain Forest

The Caribbean National Forest (El Yunque) of Puerto Rico is a classic example of evergreen tropical rain forest.

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The windward sides of Caribbean islands tend to be the wettest. On these coasts, from the lowlands until about 3,300 feet, you find the famed evergreen tropical rain forest.

This contains some of the world lushest and most diverse vegetation, with perhaps several hundred different species fighting for the same space.

In this tropical rain forest the tree canopy can extend as high as 130-150 feet above ground. Many species tend to be slender and well buttressed due to their shallow roots.

The roots are shallow because most nutrients are in the upper soil levels. The rich tree crowns of the rain forest canopy absorb most of the light, leaving the ground in almost perpetual shade; only 3 percent of the daylight actually reaches the rain forest floor.

The jungle, therefore, is in the thick canopy above, not on the ground. That makes rain forests relatively easy places for walking except when the soil is slick and muddy, which is quite often.

Rain forests are where you do sometimes find Tarzan-sized vines hanging from trees, and colorful, flower shop-quality bromeliads and orchids. Ferns can be incredibly dense and rich: 500 species of fern grow on Jamaica alone. Moss and lichen flourish profusely, making rock-hopping a tricky maneuver.

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Coastal Mangrove Jungle