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liana (lēäˈnə) [key] or liane lēänˈ, name for any climbing plant that roots in the ground. The term is most often used for the woody vines that form a characteristic part of tropical rain-forest vegetation; they are sometimes also called bushropes or simply vines. Although lianas are found in every climate where there are trees to support them, they are most abundant and luxuriant in the tropics, where rapid growth to reach the light is of particular advantage in the dense vegetation. There they often ascend and descend more than one tree. Climbing palms have been measured at over 700 ft (210 m) long; a length of over 200 ft (60 m) is not unusual for many other types. Most plant families with tropical species include lianas. The distinction between true lianas and weak-stemmed trees or half-climbing shrubs cannot always be clearly drawn and depends largely on the age of the plant concerned.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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