At present, there are approximately 315 000 known species of flora (or plants) in the world. Incredibly, about 55 000 of all of these plants are endemic to Brazil, most of them being found within the lush, abundant Amazon Forest.
Not only are the actual plant species diverse and fascinating, but there is also variety in the many types of vegetation that have been established in Brazil over the centuries.
. These include:
• Tropical forest (found in the Atlantic Forest region)
• Subtropical forest (Atlantic Forest region)
• Tropical savannah (Atlantic Forest region)
• Mangrove Forest (Atlantic Forest region)
• Tropical dry forest (Atlantic Forest region)
• Wetland (in the Pantanal region)
• Savannah (found in the Cerrado region)
While adding an extraordinary natural beauty to Brazil, these plants are also very closely linked to the history, industry, economy and, indeed, future of this South American country. The vegetation also plays an integral role in the existence of the wildlife, insects and birds that occupy the area, as they are dependent on this (either directly or indirectly) for nutrition and survival.
The rainforests of Brazil are dense, lush and haunting in their enveloping magnitude. Brazil, as an area, was not affected by the Ice Age of centuries ago, and the areas of remaining rainforest were never susceptible to droughts; leaving them to grow, intertwine and develop over the ages. This has yielded a complex combination of plants that have not had the opportunity to grow anywhere else in the world. These include hundreds of exquisite orchid species and palms, which make for beautiful landscapes and fascinating finds. Scientists continue to discover new species in Brazil on a regular basis, although these numbers are offset by the numbers of species that face extinction due to deforestation and urbanisation.
In terms of the economy, the Rubber Tree (Hevea brasiliensis) remains one of Brazil’s most important floral species. It can be farmed on a massive scale, but is also found growing wildly. This tree produces the material needed to produce all products made from latex. Brazil is also the home of the hardwoods, including Mahogany, which is now protected due to its popularity in both the local and the international markets.
The flora of Brazil also includes edible fruits, many of which can only be found in the rainforests. These include açaí and cupuaçu as well as guaraná, famed for being a natural source of energy.
Because of the rapid development of Brazil, however, the flora (and, therefore, fauna) of the country is under major threat. The reasons behind this include 1) deforestation, 2) pollution, 3) overpopulation, 4) industrialisation and 5) logging. There are currently almost 400 plant species that are under the threat of becoming extinct. Approximately 50 of these are critically endangered. A number of these endangered species include those used for medicinal purposes in human beings, making them even more valuable. These include:
• Pata de Vaca
• Ginseng brasileiro
• Arnica do Cerrado
• Chapeu de Couro
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