The Amazon Rainforest is thought to produce 20% of the Earth's active oxygen every year. At least 20% of the Amazon Rain forest has already been destroyed by logging and clearing for farmland. Many Amazonian plants, such as the monstera and bromeliads, are cultivated for their ornamental value while others, such as the acai palm, yield important foodstuffs.
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The Amazon Rainforest website estimates that there are 2,700 species of bromeliads in the Amazon Rainforest. Many of these grow epiphytically on the trunks and branches of tropical forest trees, using their roots for grip. Bromeliads can trap water between their leaves and absorb both water and nutrients through them. These pools of water are an important habitat for small animal species in the Amazon. With their colourful and long lasting spikes of flowers and compact rosette of leaves, bromeliads are widely grown as houseplants.
Giant Amazonian Water Lily
The giant Amazonian water lily (Victoria amazonica) was discovered in 1801 and is still the largest known water lily in the world. It produces circular leaves up to eight feet across that grow on the surface of slow-moving and still waters in the Amazon basin. The giant Amazonian water lily produces a large white or pink flower up to 12 inches across that is pollinated by beetles.
The monstera or Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) grows as a liana, or creeper, in the Amazonian forests. It can grow up to 70 feet high, with its roots in the soil and its leaves in the forest canopy. Monsteras produce white flowers followed by edible fruit with a strong scent. These plants can be grown as houseplants in colder areas.
The acai palm (Euterpe oleracea) grows along river banks in the South American tropical forests and especially the Amazon basin. Acai palms reach 90 feet in height when they grow in the shade but will grow in the sun in high humidity areas. Acais produce bunches of small, edible, purple fruits about an inch across, which are juiced and used to make energy drinks, juices and jellies. Acai palm hearts are also edible.
Soaring up to 200 feet in height, the kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra) is the highest Amazonian tree. It is known as an emergent tree because its canopy is higher than that of other rainforest species. Kapoks shed their leaves during the dry season and produce pinkish flowers with an unpleasant smell on their bare branches. Amazonian residents use kapok wood to make canoes and the white fluff around the seeds to stuff pillows.
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