Despite its high plant diversity, the Amazon forest is dominated by a limited number of highly abundant, oligarchic tree and liana species. The high diversity can be related to specific habitat requirements in many of the less common species, but fewer studies have investigated the characteristics of the dominant species. To test how environmental variation may contribute to the success of dominant species we investigated whether the vital rates of the abundant liana Machaerium cuspidatum is sensitive to canopy height, topographic steepness, vegetation density, soil components and floristic composition across an Ecuadorian Amazon forest. The population was inventoried in 1998 and in 2009. Plants were divided into seedling-sized individuals, non-climbers and climbers. Out of 448 seedling-sized plants 421 died, 539 of 732 non-climbers died, and 107 of 198 climbers died. There was weak positive effect of dense understorey on the relative growth rate of climbers. The mortality of seedling-sized plants was higher in areas with intermediate slope, but for larger plants mortality was not related to environmental variation. The limited sensitivity of the vital rates to environmental gradients in the area suggests that ecological generalism contributes to the success of this dominant Amazonian liana.