The Amazon rainforest includes 40,000 plant species. Although this is the world's largest tropical rainforest, other rainforests exist, or used to exist, in tropical areas such as the South Pacific, Africa, Australia, and other parts of the world that lie in equatorial regions. Indigenous people use rainforest plants for food, building, clothing, and medicine. However, the rainforests are rapidly disappearing due to development.
Rainforest Plant Conditions
Rainforests are warm, humid environments that create their own weather due to the large canopy of trees that tower above the earth. Rain actually falls from these trees and creates a lush, moist carpet from fallen leaves and other plant parts. Smaller plants that thrive in this carpet favor the damp, shady conditions the canopy creates.
Many types of palms are native to rainforest regions. Among them is the 60-foot tall peach palm that the indigenous people of the Amazon region eat. This palm also is cut down for "heart of palm," another food source. The pataua palm is also native to the Amazon rainforest. It grows to 75 feet and produces an oil similar to olive oil, with large amounts of protein. Indigenous tribes of the Amazon region use it for its fiber to build homes and to weave nto baskets and clothing.
The Guarana plant is a vine native to the Amazon area that produces fruit containing a large amount of caffeine. Indigenous people used it as an energy booster to help them work long hours in the rainforest. Another Amazon rainforest plant that has gained popularity among health enthusiasts is the acai berry. It comes from a palm tree and provides a large quantity of antioxidants.
Plants Used as Houseplants
Many of our houseplants have origins in the tropical rainforests. Philodendrons, orchids and impatiens are just a few rainforest plants renowned for their greenery, flowers, and their ability to create more oxygen indoors.
Other Useful Plants
The rubber tree also comes from the Amazon rainforest and is tapped for its latex, which is drained out and then processed into rubber. This tree has found its way into large plantations in the past 100 years, so the rubber trees still standing in rainforest areas are no longer used for commercial rubber production.