A liana is any of various long-stemmed, woody vines rooted in the soil at ground level and uses trees and other means of vertical support to climb up to the canopy to access well-lit areas of the forest.
Lianas are characteristic of tropical moist deciduous forests (especially seasonal forests) but may be found in temperate rainforests. There are also temperate lianas, for example, the members of the Clematis or Vitis genera. Lianas can form bridges amidst the forest canopy, providing arboreal animals with paths across the forest. These bridges can protect weaker trees from strong winds. Lianas compete with forest trees for sunlight, water, and nutrients from the soil. Forests without lianas grow 150% more fruit. Trees with lianas have twice the probability of dying.
The term "liana" is not a taxonomic grouping but rather a description of the way the plant grows – much like "tree" or "shrub." Lianas may be found in many different plant families. One way of distinguishing lianas from trees and shrubs is based on the stiffness, specifically, Young's modulus of various parts of the stem. Trees and shrubs have young twigs and smaller branches, which are quite flexible and older growth, such as trunks and large branches, which are stiffer. A liana often has stiff young growths and older, more flexible growth at the base of the stem.
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