Tropical rainforests can be found in parts of North and South America, Asia, Australia and Africa along the Earth's equator. Formed as a result of the local temperature and high levels of rainfall, these areas are the richest in habitat, providing more than 200 species of wildlife in each hectare of forest. The plant life of the rainforests is in danger due to deforestation and commercialism. The list of endangered tropical plants is long. According to the National Tropical Botanical Garden, "Scientists now believe that more than one-third of all tropical plants are threatened with extinction."
Native to the tropical regions of Hawaii, Lobelias are beautiful flowering plants that grow as tall as 3 to 5 feet. One-quarter of the known 360 species are already confirmed to be extinct, with around 124 more facing extinction. The Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, with its 32,733-acre protected tropical forest, works to protect the Lobelias of Hawaii, as well as other endangered plants and animals.
With over 25,000 known types, orchids are the largest family of flowering plants on Earth. As a result of commercialism, many of the tropical orchids have been hunted by traders and are now consequently endangered. Due to their specialised reproductive system, orchids have low pollination rates, hurting their chance of survival even more so when combined with the loss of habitat.
Palms provide thatches to cover huts and several different fruits for people to eat and use for wine. There are more than 2,000 different kinds of palms around the world, many of which grow in tropical rainforests. Several of these tropical natives have been added to the endangered list as well. These include the Caryota urens Linnxus wine palm native to tropical areas in China and the Hawaiian Palm, or Brighamia insignis, for which there are thought to be only 7 left on the island of Kaua'i.
The Rafflesia flower, the largest flower in the world, survives on a host plant, much like a mushroom. It is found in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo. It takes nine months for the Rafflesia to mature, at which point it is the size of a cabbage and shaped like a button. Once fully grown, the flower is approximately 3 meters wide and lives for only 5 to 7 days. With such a long maturity rate and short lifespan, it is easy to see how deforestation has put this giant, fleshy flower on the endangered list.
- National Tropical Botanical Garden: Conservation
- Endangered Species Handbook: by Animal Welfare Institute
- Cool Planet: Tropical Rain Forest
- Hawaiian Palm: Welcome to the Website of the Hawaiian Palm
- American Univeristy: Orchid Smuggling and Conservation (ORCHID)
- The Flower Expert: Largest Flower - Rafflesia