Jungle vs Rainforest: 6 Key Differences

Written by Heather Ross
Updated: June 6, 2023
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Key Points:

  • A rainforest is made of tall trees that block out sun so the undergrowth does not become too thick.
  • A jungle specifically refers to the lower part of a rainforest where trees are thinner and undergrowth becomes impenetrably thick.
  • There are rainforests all over the world, but jungles only occurs in tropical climates.

Have you ever wondered if jungles and rainforests are similar? Is a rainforest just a humid jungle? Is a jungle a type of rainforest? If every jungle is a forest but not every forest is a jungle, then what is a rainforest? Are the terms ever interchangeable?

You may have guessed that a jungle is a term used to refer to any dense rainforest. However, it also specifically refers to the lower part of the forest, while the rainforest includes all living creatures above the trees. Also, a rainforest can become a jungle. We’ll explore their differences below!

Comparing Jungle vs Rainforest

ClimateTropical, high rainfallTropical or temperate, high rainfall, dark, humid, damp
Temperature20 to 25 °C deviating 5 to 10° up to 30° and 10 to 20°C at night20 to 25 °C deviating 5 to 10° up to 30° and 10 to 20°C at nigh; temperate 50 to 70°Ft
LocationNear earth’s equatorNear earth’s equator
VegetationImpenetrable, thick, varied undergrowth, shrubs, moss, predatory plantsThick with the world’s tallest, largest trees
Canopy?No; the forest is partedYes; light cannot reach the forest floor
SizeSmaller than rainforest and nowhere near as highLarge and high-reaching
AppearanceRainforest without canopyCovered area with tall trees; surrounded by jungle
Typical flora & faunaVines, shrubbery, insects, reptiles, rodentsOver half of all flora and fauna
Location of most animalsOn forest floorEmergent layer and canopy; trees
TerminologyAny type of tropical forest with thick vegetation and forest partingClosed tree canopy with heavy rainfalls and no wildfires

The 6 Key Differences Between Jungle vs Rainforest

1. Jungle vs Rainforest: Climate

A jungle always has tropical weather. A rainforest, on the other hand, can be either temperate or tropical. They also both have heavy rainfall, but while a jungle is warm, humid, and has sunlight, a rainforest is humid, damp, and dark.

When we think of a rainforest, we often think of the large tracts of densely forested/jungle land in South America. However, the forested land in the Pacific Northwest of the US and Canada are also rainforests, including the Redwoods. These rainforests do not contain jungle while the rainforests of the tropics do.

2.Jungle vs Rainforest: Vegetation

The type of vegetation growth is a huge difference between jungles and rainforests. A jungle is so thick, it is impenetrable. It has a great variety of ground-dwelling plants from shrubs, vines, moss, and undergrowth to predatory plants, but there is a parting to allow sunlight to reach the forest floor. Dense ground vegetation makes it nearly uninhabitable.

A rainforest, on the other hand, has the world’s largest and tallest trees that create a canopy. The canopy receives the most sunlight, resulting in making the lower half of the forest dark and inhibiting plant growth on the forest floor. Also, the thick tree canopy prevents much of the rain from seeping to the ground, which inhibits plant growth.

3. Jungle vs Rainforest: Size

A jungle is always smaller than a rainforest. By its nature, a jungle is a portion of a rainforest. It can be very thick and even impenetrable, but it can’t be as high as the trees of the rainforest.

Often, a jungle will be along the outer edges of the rainforest. The trees along the outside filter in more light, enabling plant growth. Therefore, the size of a jungle will depend on the size of the rainforest.

4. Jungle vs Rainforest: Typical Flora & Fauna

Besides vegetation, the variety of plants and animals matters. Jungles have mostly vines, shrubbery, insects, reptiles, and rodents, but rainforests have more than half of the world’s birds, insects, and other fauna along with flora, even though they cover only 6% of the earth’s surface. They also produce 20% of the earth’s oxygen.

5. Jungle vs Rainforest: Location of Most Animals

Most animals in a jungle are ground or tree-dwelling, often on the forest floor. In a rainforest, most animals are tree-dwelling, living in the emergent layers and canopy.

6.Jungle vs Rainforest: Terminology

A jungle is a type of dense rainforest and the term can refer to any type of tropical forest with thick vegetation, including rainforests. Today, a jungle means either an undeveloped tropical forest with impenetrable vegetation, the bottom half of a rainforest, or the outer edges of one. A rainforest refers to a temperate or tropical forest with a closed tree canopy, but it can also mean simply the upper half of the forest, including the canopy and all living creatures above the trees. All rainforests have jungles, but jungles can also be the remains of or result from cleared-away rainforests.

Jungle vs Rainforest Key Differences

  1. Climate
  2. Vegetation
  3. Size
  4. Flora & Fauna
  5. Location of Most Animals
  6. Terminology

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About the Author

Heather Ross is a secondary English teacher and mother of 2 humans, 2 tuxedo cats, and a golden doodle. In between taking the kids to soccer practice and grading papers, she enjoys reading and writing about all the animals!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the difference between a jungle and a rainforest?

A jungle is a tropical forest and a rainforest is a temperate or tropical forest with a canopy.

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