Tropical Rainforests: Layers

Contributor: Samantha Penna. Lesson ID: 11206

Do you like layer cake? Did you know tropical rainforests have different layers? Instead of icing or candles, rainforests are topped with trees up to 200 feet tall! Read about and draw these layers!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start

Did you know that the trees in tropical rainforests grow so tall that rainforests have layers?

In the previous lesson, found under Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar, you learned about where tropical rainforests can be found, and what the climate of tropical rainforests is like.

Can you remember what the climate is like in a tropical rainforest? Tell a parent or teacher what you think you would wear to a tropical rainforest and why.


In this lesson, you will learn about the layers of tropical rainforests. Take a look at the picture below. How many layers do you see? Tell a parent or teacher.

rainforest layers

Did you count four layers? Fantastic!

Tropical rainforests have four layers. Let's learn about each layer!

The layer at the very top of the tropical rainforest is the emergent layer. The emergent layer is the highest layer in the rainforest. This is where the trees get the most sunlight and grow the tallest. The trees in this section are 80 to 200 feet tall! The trees in the emergent layer are very strong. They can stay healthy even though they may face strong winds, direct sunlight, and high temperatures.

Did you know the tallest tree in the rainforest is called a Kapok Tree? Kapok Trees can grow up to 200 feet tall! Check out the Kapok Tree picture below; can you find the Kapok Tree?

Some animals can be found in the emergent layer of the rainforest. Birds, insects, bats, and sometimes even monkeys can be seen all the way up in the emergent layer.


The next layer of the rainforest is the canopy layer. The canopy layer has lots of plants. The trees in this layer of the rainforest grow from 60 to 80 feet tall. These trees are usually covered in vines and other plants.

The canopy layer is where you can find the most animals. Birds, insects, monkeys, sloths, and frogs can be found here. Over ninety percent of the animals in the rainforest live in this layer of the rainforest. Check out some of the animals below!

Image - Video

The next layer of the rainforest is called the understory layer. This is the layer where the trees are much smaller. The understory layer has young trees, palms, vines, and other small plants. This layer has smaller plants because it doesn't get much sunlight. The trees in the emergent and canopy layers prevent the understory from getting a lot of sunlight.

Insects, snakes, frogs, jaguars, lizards, monkeys, and bats can be found in this layer of the rainforest. Look at the pictures below to see what it would be like to live in the understory of the rainforest:

Image - Video

The bottom layer of the rainforest is called the rainforest floor. This is the ground layer of the rainforest. Not many plants grow here because of the lack of sunlight. The plants from the emergent, canopy, and understory layers block out almost all of the sunlight! On the rainforest floor, you are most likely to find fallen leaves and fruit.

The rainforest floor is home to many animals, such as insects, jaguars, tigers, tapirs, and many more animals. Look at the pictures of the animals below. These animals can be found on the rainforest floor:

Image - Video

Wow! You did a fantastic job learning about the layers of the rainforest. Before you move on to the next section, tell your parent or teacher the names of the four rainforest layers.

Image - Button Next