Amazon Rainforest Flora
The Amazon rainforest has a huge live collection of flora species. Botanical experts say that in 2.5 acres of the forest you can find 700 different species of trees and twice that number of plants. One of the most awesome things you will notice is that the forest has a high density of trees and they are very tall. Many trees reach 130 meters high (some species reach 200 feet), and under they form a shadowed place where at times is hard to see the sun. The high canopy of the Amazon rainforest is a very unknown place even for most botanists and until recently very few researches have even explored this hard to reach area of the forest. The high canopy is also the home of thousands of still undiscovered species of insects and birds.
Although it may be hard to believe, the soil of the Amazon rainforest is very poor in nutrients. If you show a report listing the nutrients of that soil to a botanist he or she will probably say that nothing but a cactus will grow in that. This is an astonishing fact since there are huge trees and lush vegetation all over the place. The Amazon rainforest soil holds only 20% of the nutrients in the forest; the other 80% are in the trees and plants themselves. The explanation is rather simple; the Amazon Region has a dry and a wet season. In the wet season the water level of the Amazon River rises dramatically, and in some places it reaches 15 meters higher than dry season. This means that in the rainy season a huge portion of the forest gets flooded. This works like a great mechanism for exchanging and transporting nutrients and is crucial for the whole forest. The Amazon rainforest soil works like a sponge and even being not very nutrient rich, it can hold enough nutrients to help maintain the trees until the next rainy season.
There are more than 2700 species of bromeliads. The most well-known bromeliad is the pineapple we eat. Bromeliads can have many colors like blue, purple, red and orange. These plants have adapted themselves over time and today you can find bromeliads growing in almost anywhere in the Amazon rainforest. There are bromeliads that grow on the ground, others that grow on rocks and yet others that grow on other plants and trees, usually in their trunks. Bromeliads are able to do that because they can absorb moisture and nutrients from the air. Some specialists say that sometimes a branch of a tree has so many bromeliads that they break because of their own weight.
A very interesting thing about the bromeliads, and that can only be seen in their natural habitat, is that their leaves, being overlapped, can hold water from the rainfall. This creates a micro ecosystem for aquatic micro organisms, insects and even very tiny frogs, salamanders and snails. Some animals can live their whole life in this bromeliad little lake. The orchids are very well known by their beautiful flowers and can be found in the Amazon rainforest as well. They have strong smells that attracts insects that pollinate them. One of the peculiarities of the orchids is the fact that some are pollinated by moths and thus their smell is stronger at night.
The Water Lily is the biggest flower in the world and can reach six feet in diameter. This giant can be found in the calm waters on lakes or calm parts of rivers. Although they are extremely big, they are very thin and weigh very little so they can float on the water. In the Amazon rainforest you can find lakes filled with water lilies almost creating an illusion of a solid floor. There are about 40 different species of Heliconia and they have a leaf that resembles a lobster claw with very bright colors like yellow, green, orange, red, purple and pink. Many times the colors are mixed in the same leaf creating beautiful combinations.
The flowers of the Heliconias are usually hidden among the leaf structure and need very specialized birds or insects to reach their nectar. The Heliconias are valued as ornamental plants and are common among gardens because of their unique structure and colors. The Kapok Tree is the biggest tree of the Amazon rainforest, as it can grow to 200 feet tall and the trunk can be 10 or 11 feet in diameter. This big tree is usually the home of many other species from insects to frogs and birds, it also offer support for tree climbers and bromeliads. Another common visitor of the Kapok trees are the bats attracted by the trees flowers smell. They are actually the ones that fertilize the Kapok over the Amazon rainforest as they spread the pollen of these flowers since they are so eager to eat the sweet nectar.
Adapted from http://www.amazon-rainforest.org/