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South American Tropical Plants

South America is renowned for its lush tropical beauty. Plants in this region have adapted to the hot and humid climate. Visitors and natives are treated to a year-round display of flowers and foliage in vivid colors, as well as some of the world's most favored fruits. These 10 plants all hail from South America, except the loofah, which comes from Asia and Africa, but now grows wild in South America.

Angel's Trumpet

Large trumpet-shaped blooms hang from the Angel's trumpets (Brugmansia spp.), a genus of tropical trees and shrubs. Don't plant this in a location where children or pets will be playing, as all parts are poisonous or narcotic. It is related to datura, another genus of plants with hallucinogenic properties.


Most people are familiar with the main product created from the cacao tree. It produces pods from which the cacao beans are harvested and processed to become chocolate. The genus name Theobroma means "food of the gods" according to UCLA.

Coral Snake Tree

The coral snake tree (Cojoba rufescens) derives its name from the fact that the fruit looks like the reptile. Birds are tricked into eating the fruit because of the color, as explained by the Missouri Botanical Garden.


In the tropics, jacaranda trees are covered with purple blossoms throughout most of the year. They are often used to line streets and provide shade.


The loofah is commonly used as an exfoliator in skin care. It is made by drying out gourds from the luffa plant (Luffa aegyptiaca).

Pejibaye Palm

The trunk of the pejibaye palm (Bactris gasipaes) is covered with spiny stems, per the Missouri Botanical Garden. It produces edible orange-red fruits.


The pineapple (Ananas comosus) is the fruit of a bromeliad. It is created by many flowers and plant parts fusing together, causing it to be classified as a multiple fruit.


The pitaya (Hylocereus costaricensis) is one species of a genus of plants that produce fruit commonly known as dragonfruit in the United States. It is a succulent with fruit with red skins and flesh. The texture is similar to a kiwi.

Princess flower

The princess flower (Tibouchina urvilleana) produces large purple flowers on a large shrub or small tree. The leaves are covered with soft hairs.

Vanilla Orchid

Vanilla beans are the fruit produced by the vanilla orchids (Vanilla spp.). Most commercial vanilla comes from the Vanilla planifolia species according to Palomar College. Vanilla extract is made by placing the bean pods in alcohol and water and allowing it to steep for varying lengths of time as determined by the manufacturer.

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