This is the layer of trees and shrubs that grows beneath the forest canopy but above the forest floor. The forest canopy — the topmost part of the forest — is made of the tallest trees that need the most light. Their branches and leaves block much of the sun’s light from reaching the understory below. So plants that grow there need to be able to survive in the shade, with less sunlight. In those low-light conditions, plants in the understory may be stunted and short. Saplings can also be found in the understory. These are young trees that aren’t yet tall enough to reach the canopy. And then there are other understory plants thrive in the shade. These can include shrubs and familiar species such as holly and dogwoods. They also include important food plants, such as cacao, which provides chocolate.
The plants in the understory provide homes and food for animals that live in the forest. These include everything from insects, lizards, bats and birds to large mammals such as deer.