Colors of the rainforest
Last summer when we arrived on BCI, Ms. Thome told me that everything looked green. It was only after climbing a tower up above the canopy that the different layers and colors of the rainforest started to become clearer. She discovered that there are many different shades of green, all sorts of shapes and sizes of leaves, and even some of the animals are green! Sloths move so slowly that green moss grows on their white fur. But the more time we spent in the forest, the more colors we began to see. Although many plants and animals are green, some camouflage to protect themselves, others are bright reds, blues, yellows and orange. They really stand out against the trees, leaves, and sky.
The forest floor is mostly covered in brown. It is covered by dead plants, much like the forest you have seen at the Urban Ecology Center. However, on the forest floor you will also notice lots of brightly colored fungi. They come in shades of white, brown, red, yellow and green, and many colors in between. Fungi are decomposers – an essential part of any forest. They get their energy from dead organic matter (dead plants) and break down that matter into soil that is full of nutrients that feed the living plants in the forest. If you see a fungi growing on a tree, you can be sure that tree is dying or is already dead.
Flowers of all colors bloom throughout the year in the Panama rainforest. Right now many Virola trees that have purple flowers are in bloom across the island. The purple flowers attract many insects and produce a fruit that is commonly called Wild Nutmeg. Monkeys are also attracted to the trees to eat the fruit on the outside of the seed. As you walk through the forest, you will notice patches on the forest floor covered in pretty purple and pink flowers and petals, red seed coverings and seeds scattered about.
Another eye-catching plant is the heliconia. It has bright red bracts (specialized leaves to draw attention to the flowers) and little yellow flowers where the bracts meet. If you look closely, you'll notice little blue colored fruits in the flowers.
Animals and insects can be very difficult to see or they can surprise you with their bright colors. Lots of animals are able to camouflage so that they look exactly the same color the plant they are visiting, like the green anole. Some insects look just like plants. Can you guess what a Walking Stick looks like? If you see an animal or insect with red or blue, that is your warning not to touch! They may look beautiful, but they can be dangerous!
Green is certainly the most typical color in the rain forest, but when you stop and take the time to observe, you will see that the rain forest is full of amazing colors that fill you with wonder and awe.