Tropical dry forests have a diverse array of locations and species. Tropical dry forests are similar to desert climes, but they receive just enough rain to support life. There are many plant characteristics shared in tropical forests, according to Bob Chamlee of the Los Cabos Guide. Characteristics that define tropical dry forest plants are the way they use water or nutrients and their methods of protection from grazing herbivores, reports the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation (CFTC).
Columnar cacti are an excellent example of dry forest vegetation, says Chamlee. Columnar cacti store water and nutrient reserves during dry seasons. Blooming occurs quickly following rains, and large and numerous blossoms attract many insects for pollinating. Columnar cacti may take nearly 100 years to fully develop.
Acacias are shrubs and bushes common to tropical dry forests, says Chamlee. These green-leafed bushes developed thorns to protect themselves from grazing animals--though many giraffes still feed on acacias. Many acacias have a symbiotic relationship with nectar lovers like ants, which keep other insect species,as well as herbivores, at bay.
Ceiba trichastandra deciduous trees developed an interesting way to continue photosynthesis after the leaf loss that occurs when dry seasons set in. These trees have green bark that continues photosynthesis, without the presence of leaves, according to the CFTC. Ceiba trees are spiny when young, to deter herbivores. They develop enormous bases as they grow to giant proportions--up to 230 feet.
Agave succulents are common in tropical dry forests, according to Chamlee. Agave store water and nutrients similar to cacti. Some agave are garden plants, some are spiked or have spines and some are cultivated for use in the manufacture of tequila. The agave Americana plant takes several years to store the water and nutrients needed to produce flowers.