Tropical montane cloud forests (TMCF) are characterized by short trees, often twisted with multiple stems, with many stems per ground area, a large stem diameter to height ratio, and small, often thick leaves. These forests exhibit high root to shoot ratio, with a moderate leaf area index, low above-ground production, low leaf nutrient concentrations and often with luxuriant epiphytic growth. These traits of TMCF are caused by climatic conditions not geological substrate, and are particularly associated with frequent or persistent fog and low cloud. There are several reasons why fog might result in these features. Firstly, the fog and clouds reduce the amount of light received per unit area of ground and as closed-canopy forests absorb most of the light that reaches them the reduction in the total amount of light reduces growth. Secondly, the rate of photosynthesis per leaf area declines in comparison with that in the lowlands, which leads to less carbon fixation. Nitrogen supply limits growth in several of the few TMCFs where it has been investigated experimentally. High root : shoot biomass and production ratios are common in TMCF, and soils are often wet which may contribute to N limitation. Further study is needed to clarify the causes of several key features of TMCF ecosystems including high tree diameter : height ratio.