Jewels of the Forest: The Fascinating World of Tree Frogs

The yellow tree frog is already impressive, and resembles a little jewel even more with his vocal sac extended!. (Photo: Brian Gratwicke/Flickr)

Warm summer nights are filled with the creaky song of the tree frog. But these arboreal amphibians aren't just masters of the evening serenade; they also enchant us with their beautiful colors and patterns.

They spend much of their lives climbing up bark and perching on leaves, and all the while, tree frogs give even the prettiest forest flowers a run for the money.

This Australian green tree frog is a cheery fellow!. (Photo: Andrew Lam/Shutterstock)

One of the sweetest and most iconic tree frogs, the green tree frog hails from Australia but also can be found in the United States. A lovely shade of sea green, this adorable amphibian is a hulk of a frog, growing to be at least 4 inches long.

The red-eyed tree frog is one of the most colorful amphibians on Earth. (Photo: Andy Morffew/Flickr)

The red-eyed tree frog is a spectacular array of bright green, deep blue, yellow and red. It thrives in the tropical environment of Central America, but unlike the other colorful frogs of the region, it's not poisonous. Rather, its red eyes serve as a defense mechanism. (Imagine creeping up on this little frog, and then seeing those bright red peepers staring back at you!)

With purple legs and yellow spots, the Upper Amazon tree frog wins the award for tackiest coloration. (Photo: Dr. Morley Read/Shutterstock)

The Upper Amazon tree frog is another common amphibian found in the tropics. This little guy spends less time on the trees and more time in shrubs and along the water, where it lays its eggs.

Mesmerizing, enormous peepers give the big-eyed tree frog its name. (Photo: Rui Bernardo/Shutterstock)

The dizzying pattern of the big-eyed tree frog, also known as the peacock tree frog, keeps it hidden in its native forests of Tanzania.

Some big-eyed tree frogs experience an identity crisis during their lifetime, changing from green to a drab brown.

Leaf frogs

Splendid indeed! The splendid leaf frog boasts almost every color of the rainbow. (Photo: Dirk Ercken/Shutterstock)

In a the Hylidae subfamily Phyllomedusinae, neotropical leaf frogs take on a different shape.

The splendid leaf frog is a night owl that spends most of its life up in the trees, only descending to breed.

It's easy to see how the tiger-striped leaf frog got its name. (Photo: Bernard DUPONT/Flickr)

This South American stunner is the barred leaf frog, also known as the tiger-striped leaf frog (for obvious reasons). Unlike its tree-bound cousin, this leaf frog frequents swamps and marshes in addition to lowland forests.

Waxy monkey leaf frogs look as strange as their name implies. (Photo: Aleksey Stemmer/Shutterstock)

With hues of blue and yellow-green, the waxy monkey tree frog is one of the most beautiful leaf frog species. While other leaf frog species must leave the trees to mate, the waxy monkey tree frog lives up to its name by staying in the trees for its entire adult life. This frog lays its eggs in leaves that are near streams, and folds the leaves up to protect its young. When tadpoles emerge, they drop into the water to finish developing.

Poison dart frogs

The "blue jeans" color morph of the strawberry poison dart frog appears to be dressed in denim!. (Photo: Danel Solabarrieta/Flickr)

Also found deep within the Central and South American forests, the brightest tree-dwelling frogs are poison dart frogs — and there's a specific reason for their bold coloration: a warning of their poisonous secretions.

They technically are not tree frogs, but many species of poison dart frogs live in trees 30 feet or more from the forest floor. The strawberry poison dart frog, for example, climbs up and down trees and plants as it tends to its eggs.

The la gruta morph of the strawberry poison dart frog is a stunning array of greens and yellows. (Photo: Dendrotoine85 [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons)

The strawberry poison dart frog is not always red; some variations sport different colors and patterns.

Golden poison frogs wallow in the mud at zoo Zürich. (Photo: Tambako the Jaguar/Flickr)

Another inhabitant of the rainforest, the golden poison frog is one of the most dangerous dart frogs. These pretty little amphibians are coated with an alkaloid toxin that can cause involuntary muscle contraction, heart failure and even death.

The yellow-banded poison dart frog has bold markings to warn predators. (Photo: Chris Parker [CC BY-ND 2.0]/Flickr)

A striking inhabitant of the rainforest in Venezuela and Brazil, the yellow-banded poison dart frog is likely to be found under a rock as well as in a tree. This creature hops and calls all over the forest, fiercely protecting its territory — more of a threat than you'd think for a critter that's barely over an inch long!