Caribbean National Forest

Cloud Forest

The Cloud Forest, also known as the Dwarf Forest, Elfin Forest or Mossy Forest is found only on the high ridges from 2,500-3,500 feet. Extreme environmental conditions make this forest type a biological curiosity. Its perpetually wet environment, rainfall (which in this forest exceeds 200 inches a year) and average temperature of 65° produce an environment characterized by opaque clouds of fog that hang just above the ground. Everything beneath them constantly drips.

The vegetation in this forest is characterized by gnarled short trees, reaching a maximum height of only 15 to 20 feet, having a small trunk diameter, a large number of stems and extremely slow growth. The constant exposure to strong winds, cloud cover, extremely low transpiration rates and water-saturated soils all contribute to the dwarf stature of the trees. The constant winds also account for the swept appearance of the vegetation. Epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants but are not parasitic) cover every possible surface in this forest. These hang like beards on branches and stems and even live on smooth leaves. Algae also thrives everywhere from the fern-covered ground to the moss-capped branches. Birds and tree frogs are heard everywhere but usually not seen in this vine-choked forest.

This forest type contains a number of plant species that are found nowhere else. Several of these are unique, or endemic. The five most common trees in this particular forest are the Nemoca, Roble de Sierra, Limoncillo, Guayabota and Camasey. The Common Tree Fern is also found here. Leafy red-powered bromeliads grow abundantly both on trees and ground; however, they grow smaller and have a more intense color than in the lower forest.

The Mt. Britton Trail is a good pick for exploring the cloud forest on foot (and what other satisfactory way is there?).

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »