Buttress roots grow on specialist trees where the soil is shallow and the nutrients are all near the surface. The roots grow out horizontally from the tree, with shallow vertical roots (which only penetrate the ground by a few metres at most). The soils in the rainforest are rarely deep, since there are so many flora and fauna competing for nutrients, very little gets left on the ground. Much of the nutrients available to plants in Khao Sok actually come from the leaf litter and not the soil, since the breakdown of organic material tends to result in the leaching of nutrients away from the surface.
Larger species can grow to 30m before the first branch and reach overall heights of 65m. This often means the canopy is subject to strong cross winds, so it is believed the buttresses also act as a strengthening mechanism, preventing the trees from blowing over in the wind. It has been demonstrated that the trees will bulk up the buttresses on the sides of the trees that usually face the prevailing wind.
Although these types of tree can often reach gargantuan proportions, they rarely last more than 150 300 years. This is because the wood is often very soft, any additional weight, such as rain or liana growth can result in the failure of the branch. If the tree looses too much of its leaves, it no longer has enough energy to sustain itself.