Aerial Roots: Many plants in the upper regions of the rain forest have aerial (air) roots. They are called epiphytes. Some people mistake that to mean the the roots use air to live or breathe. The roots actually use the moisture in the air. Their sponge-like layers gather water and soak it up for later use. Plants like orchids, bromeliads, and ferns have these types of root systems. They grow high in the canopy and the roots never reach the ground. Bamboo: Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. Found in Asian rain forests. They can grow 6-15 inches a day. They can grow as tall as 120 feet . Bamboo, although hard like wood, is actually a member of the grass family. Bamboo is used in the tropics to build houses, rafts, and bridges. Bamboo is also used to make mats, hats, fish traps, chopsticks, and musical instruments. Banana Plants: The banana plant is grown all over the tropics for its fruit. Half of the world’s banana crop is grown in Africa. Central and South America export bananas to other parts of the world. Bananas grow in bunches. Plantain is a type of banana that is larger and coarser. It isn’t as sweet. Brazil Nuts: Brazil Nuts are grown in the rain forest. They are gathered by native workers and sent around the world. Many products are grown in the rain forest. The hard shell of the Brazil Nut is hard to crack. Some parrots have sharp beaks to break open the shell. The nuts are found in a round grapefruit size ball that grows on the tree and contains about 20-25 seeds (nuts). Bromeliads: Pineapples are part of a group of plants called bromeliads. These plants have stiff leaves that help water travel to the center of the plant. A big bromeliad provides a home for insects and small water animals. Cocoa Beans: The seeds of the “cacao” tree are made into a powder that is called cocoa. Cocoa is a drink that is made with this powder mixed with milk. Africa harvests about two-thirds of the world’s cocoa beans. Most of the rest comes from South America. Coconuts: Coconuts are the fruit of the coconut palm tree. The fruit grows in clusters. It has a thick outer husk and a hard inner shell. The inner white shell is called the meat of the coconut and is used for food. The liquid inside the coconut is called coconut milk and is a favorite drink in the tropics. Deforestation: This refers to the cutting down of forests. Due to land development and lumbering many rain forests are becoming smaller every day. The loss of rain forest land is a concern for all, because animals and plant species will become extinct without their nature environment. Ferns: Ferns are spore producing plants. Most grow in damp, shady places, but some grow in dry soil and rocks. Some are air plants that grow on trees. Ferns come in a variety of sizes, some are very small and others can be large bushes. Fruit it is a major product of the rain forest. Many of the fruits that originated in the rain forest are now harvested throughout the world. Some however, still are gathered from the forest. Some common fruit for the rain forest are pineapples, starfruit, mangos, guava, oranges, coconut, berries, and much more. The animals of the rain forest also thrive on the many varieties of fruit. Hibiscus: There are many different species of hummingbirds in the rain forests. They are important because they help pollinate flowers like the hibiscus. Look at the anthers (in yellow), these wipe onto the hummingbird when it is getting nectar from the plant and the hummingbird transports the pollen to another plant. Kapok Tree: The Kapok tree is a very large tree in the rain forest. It is home to many animals. Lynne Cherry’s The Great Kapok Tree is a tale about the Amazon Rain Forest. It tells about how animals and trees and humans all need each other to survive. Check this book out from your library. Lianas: Lianas are climbing plants. They climb the canopy in search of light. They wrap around branches and link from tree to tree. Lianas send roots that hang in midair, called aerial roots. These roots spread when they hit the ground and help support other climbing plants. Orchids: Orchids are an epiphyte. Epiphytes are plants that live on other plants. They often are found on tree trunks and branches of trees. The orchid traps rainfall with its aerial roots. Orchids are one of the many prized flowers of the rain forest. Palms: There are many varieties of palm trees. The coconut originated in Asia and the pacific coast of South America. They now can be found around the world. They produce a fruit called coconuts. The palms grow along the shores of the tropics. Periwinkles: The rosy periwinkle is found in the rain forest. It is part of the “dogbane” family. Periwinkles are often used to tre
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