Rain forests exist in tropical regions around the globe. Many, such as those in Madagascar and Haiti, have suffered mass deforestation at the hands of humans. The largest rain forest, surrounding the Amazon River in northern South America, is under constant threat due to logging, exploration, road building and cattle grazing. The world's rain forests provide oxygen, food, medicine and biodiversity: Over two-thirds of the world's plant species exist in rain forests.
A large number of indigenous palm trees come from rain forest regions. They provide food, oil, lumber, fiber for clothing and cordage, medicine and animal feed. Some of the valuable palm trees from the rain forest are: the peach palm, which gives an edible fruit and "heart of palm"; the Pataua palm's fruit is processed to yield an oil similar to olive oil; and date palms of several species provide the sweet, delicious fruit commonly eaten in the United States and other countries.
Other useful palms include the jelly palm, fishtail palm, king palm, pony tail palm, sago palm and sealing wax palm.
The Hevea brasiliensis, or rubber tree, is responsible for almost all of the world's rubber. This tree has a latex that is tapped in a manner similar to maple syrup. They are grown in plantations throughout tropical regions.
Many plants that are native to rain forest regions have been used by indigenous peoples for health and healing over the centuries, and many more have yet to be discovered. Guarana has become popular for its reputed help with weight reduction, but this is due to its high caffeine content. Other plants that have been used for medicinal purposes include the cocoa tree, the annatto tree, trumpet tree, clavillia herb, quinine, yerba mate, suma vine, curare, devil's claw, Madagascar periwinkle, gotu kola herb and clove tree.
Plants Used for Landscaping
Many rain forest plants become attractive additions to homes and gardens far from their native habitats. Some of the many ornamentals we use from rain forest areas include: bromeliads; epiphytes such as tillandsias, orchids, cacti and ferns; heliconias; carnivorous plants; philodendrons; fruit trees such as mangoes, cherimoya and Jack fruit.