When a trait contributes to an organisms survival it can spread its genes more efficiently and that trait can become prevalent in a process called Natural Selection. Tropical trees developed spikes on their trunks mainly for protection.
Plants such as the the Floss Silk Tree which has lots of small sharp spikes is visited by bats and moths for pollination but small climbing animals that would like to eat its leaves find it impossible to access. Some examples of trees with spikes on trunks and branches are hawthornes, Bombax, citrus and Kapok trees (Trees by Tony Rodd and Jennifer Stackhouse page 76). Fruits and leaves become inaccessible to most creatures allowing the tree to live longer and pass on its genes.
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