In the tropical zones where winter frosts do not occur, a wealth of tree species exists. Just as trees in the temperate lands have many uses, so do those in the tropics. Providing shade, lumber, fuel, food or ornamental beauty, the list of tropical trees seems endless.
Tropical trees are evergreen or deciduous, based on the climate and soils in their native habitats. Where rainfall is abundant year round, more evergreen trees exist, such as in the rainforest. Where one season is markedly dry, trees survive by temporarily dropping their leaves until rains reappear. Humans use both types to shade buildings and parks from hot summer sun as well as enjoy seasonal flowering displays. Fig trees (Ficus spp.) are also called banyans or laurels and reach massive mature sizes. Other evergreen tropical shade trees, as listed in "Tropical and Subtropical Trees," by Margaret Barwick, include barringtonia, Moreton Bay chestnut, rainbow gum, umbrella tree, African tulip tree, seagrape and macaranga. Deciduous shade trees include baobab, rain tree, kapok, coral tree and royal poinciana.
Besides casting shade, many tropical trees are revered for beautiful seasonal displays of flowers. Among those grown for ornamental reasons include the royal poinciana, African tulip tree, trumpet tree, cassia/shower tree, gold medallion tree, coral tree, silk floss tree, golden pendas, orchid tree and jacaranda. In addition to flowers, some trees provide architecturally interesting or colourful fruits too. Examples include the sausage tree, barringtonia, cecropia, lily of the valley tree and asoka.
Another group of tropical trees are widely cultivated as they provide tasty edible fruits or nuts. Starfruit/carambola, mango, bael fruit, cashew, breadfruit, longan, durian, chocolate/cacao, soursop and soapberry are common tropical orchard trees. Lemon and lime are grown in tropical regions, and a few other species also tolerate subtropical areas with cool, dry winters that approach but do not reach freezing. Examples of these include orange, kumquat, avocado, loquat and lychee. Bananas are not botanically regarded as trees since they lack cambium and bark.
- "Tropical and Subtropical Trees"; Margaret Barwick; 2004
- Tropical Trees for Life: Selecting Multipurpose Trees