Distribution patterns of vascular plants with diameter at breast height (dbh) ≥ 2.5 cm were studied on the basis of compositional data from 30 small plots located in a rain-forest area in Colombian Amazonia. The research questions were: How are distribution patterns of species in relation to local abundance in plots? Do understorey species (defined as species with individuals that never attained dbh ≥ 10 cm anywhere) show better correlations with soils and environment than canopy species (defined as species with individuals that attained dbh ≥ 10 cm)? Are patterns found in the entire range of landscape units comparable to those found in well-drained uplands alone? Species that occurred in more than one plot showed higher local abundances. This pattern was consistent among environmental generalists and specialists. Locally rare species (with only one individual in a plot) occurred mostly in well-drained uplands. Considering all landscape units, Mantel tests showed substantial correlations between environmental data (soil chemical data, drainage and flooding) and species composition. Canopy species were only slightly less correlated with environmental data than understorey species. Elimination of the spatial component in the data did not reduce these correlations. In well-drained uplands, understorey species were better correlated with soils than canopy species. Here, however, the spatial configuration of the plots became more important in explaining species patterns.