An Afternoon Rain

By Anna Mazzaro
February 10, 2004

I'm sitting on the balcony of my room after a busy day. All the sudden, the sky starts getting dark. Big gray clouds are pushed my way by the soft wind. The branches start moving. Some leaves are falling down. Fresh drops of water are coming down. It's raining!

It looks as if the entire scenery is changing. I can see, hear, touch, and even smell the rain. The big raindrops are falling slowly on the leaves. As I look at the rain falling on them, I notice that the leaves from different kinds of plants have very similar shape (see photo of "similar leaves").

similar leaf samples

How are these leaves similar in shape?

When I think about leaves in the rainforest, I have to think about the difficult lives of plants, trees, and all the vegetation. Yes, in the rainforest the temperatures are more or less constant, the humidity is high, and it rains a lot. But, we also need to remember that the soil in the forest is shallow, this means that it is not piled very deep around roots. The soil is not very fertile due to the rapid decomposition and absorption of nutrients

by the trees. So the soil doesn't contain a lot of the nutrients so much needed to help plants grow. Since some of the trees grow very tall (some higher than 200 feet), the forest floor and understory of the forest don't receive much light, which makes it difficult for plants to grow.

comparing sizes of leaves


Think about how leaf shapes, colors, and sizes can be similar or different. How are the leaves in each photo similar? How are they different?

To cope with some of these problems, plants have adapted in different ways. The leaves in the understory are big. This helps the plant absorb the maximum amount of light. Meanwhile, the leaves in the canopy are small and leathery to reduce water loss in the strong sunlight and winds. Also, since the leaves grow so close to each other in the canopy, they stop the rain from reaching the plants below.

preserved leaves