Rainforests are hot, humid and dense jungles and the oldest living ecosystem in the world. Tropical rainforests cover less than 6 percent of the earth today but contain more than half of the known species of plants and animals in the world. Rainforests contain more trees than any other plant life, but the most exotic flowers originated in the rainforests. Samples of these flowers have been taken and grown in greenhouses and hot houses all over the world.
Rainforests are located through Central and South America, Africa, Southern Asia and Australia. Each one contains its own unique species of flowers. Within each rainforest is further diversity. Flowers found in the lowlands of the Amazon rainforest will not be found in the mountainous regions of the same rainforest. Some flowers grow in and above the canopy to receive full sun while others grow in the floor of the rainforest. Each species of flower has adapted to its specific location.
Over 2,700 known species of bromeliads live in rainforests. Most produce bright purple, red, orange and blue flowers. Pineapples are the most well known bromeliad. Orchids are the most well known rainforest flower. They are now cultivated in hot houses as indoor flowers all over the world. Water lilies grow in abundance throughout the Amazon rainforest. Carnivorous plants are not flowers, though they resemble them as a way to attract prey. Bougainvillea is a bright red to pink flowering vine that originated in the Amazon. Jambu is a flowering shrub native to Indonesia. It has bright pink flowers that develop into small fruits similar in shape to a pear.
Flowers of the rainforest provide predominantly symbiotic relationships with other plant and animal species. Bromeliads provide micro ecosystems for small insects and amphibians. Carnivorous plants play a part in insect control. Flowering plants such as the jambu and pineapple are a part of the diet of humans and other animals. Poinciana is considered a medicinal plant; as a tea it is used to treat fevers, coughs and respiratory problems.
Numbers of flowering plants have known medical benefits. Of the 121 current prescription drugs based on plant derivatives, one quarter of those plants come from the rainforest. Seventy percent of the 3,000 plants identified by the U.S. National Cancer Institute are found in the rainforests of the world. Additionally the flowering plants, trees and vines of the rainforests provide the origins of common food items such as tomatoes, corn, squash, rice, coffee, vanilla and nuts. Spices such as black pepper, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves and ginger originated in the rainforests.
Much of the rainforests and their diversity have been destroyed by clear cutting. The loss of plant species is detrimental to scientific research. Undiscovered plant species may be destroyed before their benefits can be discovered. Rainforests produce much of the oxygen content of the air we breathe. Without these plants there may be further buildup of greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere.