100 horticultural wonders of the world – Amazon Jungle #004

, posted in Environment

By Saif Malik

Amazon Jungle, is a moist broadleaf forest that covers most of the Amazon Basin of South America. The total area covered by this jungle is 1.4 billion acres, happening a territory of nine nations (Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana). However Brazil contains the majority of the forest.

It was short-listed in 2008 as a candidate to one of the ''new seven wonders of nature" by the "new seven wonders of the world" foundation.

About a third of the world's species of plants and insects make their home in Amazon jungle. This jungle contains at least 40,000 plant species. It has been estimated that about one square mile might contain 750 tree and 1500 plant species. However, it has been found that there are 800 plant species of economic or social value in this rainforest.

If we look at the ecosystem of Amazon jungle, its climate is really bad, it is hot, wet sticky and absolutely humid. The soil is also very poor. It rains suddenly and stops just as it started, suddenly. The Amazon rainforest actually receives rainfall that is called convectional rainfall. It means the sun heats the ground, this causes the water to evaporate, then this evaporated water condenses to dew point at a certain height, it forms rain clouds and rains. What goes up comes down and what comes down goes up again!

Because of this, it allows an enormous variation rare in more temperate climates: some like the orchids have beautiful flowers adapted to attract the profusion of forest insects. Competition at ground level for light and food has lead to evolution of plants which live on the branches of other plants, or even strangle large trees to fight for survival. The aerial plants often gather nourishment from the air itself using so-called 'air roots’. The humidity of the rainforest encourages such adaptations which would be impossible in most temperate forests with their much drier conditions.

Amazon jungle is a jungle of amazement from all aspects. It’s a great horticultural wonder hiding lots of botanical, physical, physiological, ecological and ornamental secrets in it. It is very difficult to uncover/describe all these secrets here in one article. However a short detail of some famous plant species &/their amazing characters found in Amazon Jungle is as follows.

Kapok Tree:

The giant of the Amazon rainforest that can grow up to 200 feet high and 9 to 11 inches in diameter, the Kapok tree is the most important plant species of the Amazon rainforest, as it houses many species of Amazon rainforest plants and animals. You can find over 400 to 5000 fruits produced by the Kapok tree at one time. The Amazon rainforest kapok tree is used by the native people for its bark, resin, seeds and leaves. It is known to help treat fever, asthma, kidney diseases and dysentery.

Lianas:   

Lianas are a type of climbing vine found throughout Amazon Jungle. They have thick, woody stems and come in various lengths (up to 3,000 ft) and varying shapes. They begin life on the forest floor but depend on trees for support as they climb upwards towards the sunlight they need for survival. They do this by attaching themselves to trees with sucker roots or tendrils and growing with the young sapling, or they climb by winding themselves round the tree's trunk.

 

Orchids:

Amazon jungle amazingly contains over 2500 known species of orchids. Temperate orchids usually grow in the soil; tropical orchids are more often epiphytes which grow non-parasitically on trees. More than 70 percent of orchids are epiphytes, which are plants that grow on a host, much like a parasite. Hence they are well adapted to Amazon rainforests.

 Bromeliads:

Bromeliads are related to the pineapple family. Their thick, waxy leaves form a bowl shape in the centre for catching rainwater. Some bromeliads can hold several gallons of water and are miniature ecosystems in themselves providing homes for several creatures including frogs and their tadpoles, salamanders, snails, beetles and mosquito larvae. Those that die decompose and furnish the plant with nutrients. One bromeliad was found to contain several small beetles, crane flies, earwigs, a frog, a cockroach, spiders, fly larvae, a millipede, a scorpion, woodlice and an earthworm!

There are more than 2,700 different species of bromeliads, and they can be found living in every layer of the rainforest. 

Nuts:

Coconuts are the most common nuts of Amazon jungle.

Castor Beans:

Alocasia:

Amazon water Lilly:

The leaves of the Amazon water lily can grow more than 8 feet across and can support the weight of a grown human. This flower has adapted a unique way of ensuring the survival of their species. The flower, which can be a foot wide and is female, blooms a beautiful pure-white the first evening. The flower produces a chemical reaction that releases a warm scent that attracts the scarab beetle. As daylight approaches, the flower closes, trapping the beetle inside. During the following day, the flower becomes male, and as the beetle tries to free itself it becomes covered in pollen. The flower changes to a pink color that is unattractive to the scarab beetle, and when it opens again in the evening, the beetle travels to another white flower, which starts the process over again.

Ferns:

Rain-forest ferns often grow on tree trunks. These ferns are generally epiphytic but occasionally grow as thick ground cover. Epiphytic ferns or tree ferns, grow on trunks of trees and receive nutrients from their hosts. Nearly all ferns are non-flowering and produce neither fruits nor seeds; instead, reproduction occurs via spores. 

Palm trees:

Fruit trees:

The Pineapple, passion fruit, mango, guava and papaya are all fruits enormously found in Amazon jungle. The coconut palm grows throughout this jungle and is valued for its coconut fruit.

Heliconia:

 

White Trillium:

The white trillium flower has three petals, three sepals and three leaves. If you chew on to white trillium leaves, it will help cure a snakebite. If a woman in labor chews on to the petals, it will help ease childbirth. And chewing on to the sepals helps curing fevers. As you can see, one white trillium plant has three useful uses.

 Trumpet Tree:

Tualang Tree:

The tualang tree grows in the tropical rainforest and can reach 250 feet tall. It is known mostly for the large, ornate honeycombs of the Asian rock bees. These honeycombs are 6 feet across and contain up to 30,000 bees. Each tree can hold as many as 100 honeycombs. The slippery bark of the tree prevents the local sun bears from climbing the trunks to ravish the honeycombs. 

Rosy Periwinkle:

This plant looks similar to common garden periwinkles, with five white to red petals and pink centers. Rosy periwinkle supplies two very important drugs e.g. vincristine and vinblastine, that are used to treat Hodgkin's disease and lymphocytic leukemia, respectively.

Curare:

Curare is a vine with large, heart-shaped leaves that grows in the tropical rainforests of South America. South America's Indians use the roots and stems, along with venomous snakes and other plants, to make a poison to use on their darts and arrows. In fact, the name "curare" comes from an Indian word meaning "poison." In the United States, a derivative of the curare plant is used during surgery to temporarily paralyze muscles. In large doses, an injection of curare is fatal. Ingestion of curare is harmless, as the drug must enter the blood stream to be effective.

Epiphytes:

Epiphytes, or air plants, grow everywhere but can be found mainly on the branches, trunks, and even the leaves of trees. The name 'epiphyte' comes from the Greek word 'epi' meaning 'upon' and 'phyton' meaning 'plant'.

Different types of epiphytes may grow on the same tree, including orchids, cacti, bromeliads, aroids, lichens, mosses and ferns. They begin their life in the canopy from seeds or spores transported there by birds or winds. 

Saprophytes:

Saprophytes are the organisms that act as the rainforests decomposers, competing with the heavy rainfall which constantly washes away nutrients on the forest floors. Some fungi, called mycorrhizals, are examples of plant life that carry out this function.

 

Stranglers:

Most stranglers are members of the fig family. In Spanish they are known as matapalo - 'killer tree'. The seed of the strangler fig starts life as an epiphyte high in the trees, borne by birds and monkeys which eat the fig fruit. The seedling fig sends down long roots to the ground from where it begins to surround the host tree. It grows quickly and eventually suffocates the host: when the host tree dies it leaves an enormous upright strangler with a hollow core.

By using an adult tree as its host, the strangler fig avoids competition for light and nutrients at ground level.

Stilt or Prop Roots:

In this jungle Mangroves grow in wet, muddy soil at the water's edge which can be subject to tides and flooding. As a means of support they develop several aerial pitchfork-like extensions from the trunk which grow downwards and anchor themselves in the soil trapping sediment which helps to stabilize the tree.

Buttress Roots:

Most rainforest soil is very poor with all the nutrients available largely remaining at surface level. Because of this rainforest trees have very shallow roots.

Some very tall trees have developed ways of obtaining much needed additional support by forming buttressed roots, which grow out from the base of the trunk sometimes as high as 15 ft above the ground. These extended roots also increase the area over which nutrients can be absorbed from the soil.

Carnivorous plants:

 

Coca:

 

Medicinal plants/flowers:

Tropical rainforest trees and plants are essential to humankind. Rainforest plants supply over 25 percent of the medicines we use, as well as 40 percent of the world's oxygen.

Medicines used during surgical procedures, medicines used to treat malaria and drugs used to combat certain kinds of cancer all come from tropical rainforest trees and plants.

Many flowers in the Amazon rainforest have been proven to have medicinal properties. Seventy percent of the plants identified as having anticancer characteristics by the U.S. National Cancer Institute are found only in the tropical rainforest. Some of these flowers include: Clavillia, which is used to kill viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites; White Trillium, which can help cure snake bites if the leaves are chewed, can help ease childbirth if the petals are chewed and can help cure fevers if the sepals are chewed; and Foxglove, which contain digitalis, a substance used to treat heart problems.

Some more breath-taking facts of plants in Amazon Jungle:

  • There are over two-thirds of world's plant species found in the Amazon rainforest.
  • The size of a football field is the area of rainforest that is destroyed every second by excessive mining and deforestation.
  • The giant bamboo plants can grow up to 9 inches a day. 
  • A rain drop takes about 10 minutes to reach the ground, as the canopy layer of the rainforest is so densely packed.
  • Algae can grow over the Slots fur, as it moves so slowly in the moist South American Amazon rainforest.
  • There are over 8,000 species of rainforest plants in Central Africa.
  • About 80% of the flowers in the rainforests are not found anywhere else in the world.
  • 1 out of 4 ingredients used in making medicines is extracted from Amazon rainforest plants.
  • The Amazon rainforests are known as the 'Lungs of Earth'.
  • In a four square mile patch of rainforest, there are as many as 1,500 flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 400 species of birds and 150 species of butterflies.
  • Of the original 6 million square miles of tropical rainforest existing worldwide, only 2.6 million square miles remain today, due to excessive deforestation.

Inhabitants of Amzon jungle:

Approximately 20,000 indigenous people who live in some 200–250 villages in the Amazon rainforest are known as the Yanomami. There were over 6 million indigenous people living in the Brazilian Amazon once upon a time in 1500 AD. By the 1900's, less than 250,000 indigenous people were left living in the Amazon.

Amazingly the entire village lives under a common roof called the shabono.

 

British architect Marks Barfield have designed a research centre for the Amazon Jungle with a bulging bamboo observation tower and over six miles of treetop bridges.

People call it a jungle, while I think it's a paradise. The paradise in which millions of plants, animals, microbes and humans happily live together, and provide fresh oxygen, medicines, wood and other resourses to modern human being enormously. Unfortunately, as you read above, this paradise is vanishing from the face of earth slowly slowly with the passage of time due to deforestation and other cruelities of we ''the so-called modern human beings.''

For God's sake, wake-up, wake-up, wake-up, wake-up before it's too late. We need to save this paradise/jungle/rainforest before we too sink into the abysses like the Titanic. 

Hope you have enjoyed this article. I ask nothing in return for this article. Instead I want to make a request:

"Stand up to save Amazon jungle/rainforest before it's vanished from the face of earth"

 

 Courtesy: Wikipedia, Google, Squidoo, Buzzle, etc.

 

About author: Saif Malik is a Landscape horticulturist, well equipped with lot of professional exposure and experience. Along with landscaping/gardening work, he's founder, publisher & editor-in-chief of hortist.com.
Email: saif@hortist.com; Twitter: @hortist09; Website URL: http://www.hortist.com

Copyright Hortist, 2013

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Hortist is a sustainable source for landscape horticulture news, solutions and resources, managed by a Landscape horticulturist from Pakistan. Hortist reports on importance of this very unique niche and how it improves the landscape of this world and lives of its inhabitants.