Trees flowers and plants

  • Admiral Bake
  • Almonred
  • Aluft Gianne snr.
  • Ambassador Ferrnook
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  • Ani
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  • Barman (Grand Tree)
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  • Rainforests are found all over the world — in West and Central Africa, South and Central America, Indonesia, Southeast Asia and Australia — on every continent except Antarctica. They are vitally important, producing most of the oxygen we breathe and providing habitat for half of the planet’s flora and fauna.

    Types of rainforests

    The term “rainforest” has a wide classification. Typically, rainforests are lush, humid, hot stretches of land covered in tall, broadleaf evergreen trees, usually found around the equator. These areas usually get rain year-round, typically more than 70 inches (1,800 millimeters) a year, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Various types of forests, such as monsoon forests, mangrove forests and temperate forests, can be considered rainforests. Here’s what makes them different:

    • Temperate rainforests consist of coniferous or broadleaf trees and are found in the temperate zones. They are identified as rainforests by the large amount of rain they receive.
    • Mangrove rainforests are, like their name, made of mangrove trees. These trees grow only in brackish waters where rivers meet the ocean.
    • Monsoon rainforests are also called “dry rainforests” because they have a dry season. These get around 31 to 71 inches (800 mm to 1,800 mm) of rain. Up to 75 percent of the trees in dry rainforests can be deciduous.

    Most rainforests are very warm, with an average temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) during the day and 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) at night.

    A rainforest consists of two major areas. The very top part is called the canopy, which can be as tall as 98 feet to 164 feet (30 to 50 meters). This area is comprised of the tops of trees and vines. The rest, below the canopy, is called the understory. This can include ferns, flowers, vines, tree trunks and dead leaves.

    Some animals stay in the canopy and rarely ever come down to the ground. Some of these animals include monkeys, flying squirrels and sharp-clawed woodpeckers, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

    Upper montane cloud forest during rainfall at Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia. (Image credit: L. A. Bruijnzeel and I. S. M. Sieverding)

    Animals and plants

    The rainforest is home to many plants and animals. According to The Nature Conservancy, a 4-square-mile (2,560 acres) area of rainforest contains as many as 1,500 flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 400 species of birds and 150 species of butterflies. The Amazon rainforest alone contains around 10 percent of the world’s known species.

    Just about every type of animal lives in rainforests. In fact, though rainforests cover less than 2 percent of Earth’s total surface area, they are home to 50 percent of Earth’s plants and animals, according to The Nature Conservancy. For example, rhinoceroses, deer, leopards, gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, armadillos and even bears can be found living in rainforests across the world.

    Many unusual animals and plants have been discovered in rainforests. For example, the fairy lantern parasite (Thismia neptunis) reappeared in the rainforest of Borneo, Malaysia, in 2018, 151 years after it was first documented. This plant sucks on underground fungi and doesn’t need sunlight to survive. “To our knowledge, it is only the second finding of the species in total,” the Czech team of researchers wrote in a paper, which was published Feb. 21, 2018, in the journal Phytotaxa.

    Some of the animals are also unusual. For example, the tapir is a mammal that looks like a mix between an anteater and a pig and can be found in the rainforests of South America and Asia. The stunning silverback gorilla lives in the rainforest of the Central African Republic. Forest giraffes, or okapi, a strange-looking cross between a horse and a zebra, also inhabit the African rainforest.

    One particularly surprising rainforest find is a spider as big as a puppy. The massive South American Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) is the world’s largest spider, according to Guinness World Records. Each leg can reach up to 1 foot (30 centimeters) long, and it can weigh up to 6 ounces (170 grams).

    Seventy percent of the plants identified by the U.S. National Cancer Institute as useful in the treatment of cancer are found only in rainforests, according to The Nature Conservancy. Scientists have identified more than 2,000 tropical forest plants as having anti-cancer properties. However, less than 1 percent of tropical rainforest species have been analyzed for their medicinal value.

    Rainforests are found on every continent except Antarctica. Map shows tropical rainforests in dark green and temperate rainforests in light green. (Image credit: Ville Koistinen)

    Importance

    Humans and animals rely on the rainforest to make the majority of Earth’s oxygen. One tree produces nearly 260 lbs. of oxygen each year, according to the Growing Air Foundation, and 1 hectare (2.47 acres) of rainforest may contain over 750 types of trees.

    A tree uses carbon dioxide to grow. A living tree draws in and stores twice as much carbon dioxide than a fallen tree releases. But when the tree is cut down, it releases its stored carbon dioxide. For example, dead Amazonian trees emit an estimated 1.9 billion tons (1.7 billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications in 2014. The same trees typically absorb about 2.2 billion tons (2 billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide makes up around 82.2 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    Out of the 6 million square miles (15 million square kilometers) of tropical rainforest that once existed worldwide, only 2.4 million square miles (6 million square km) remain, and only 50 percent, or 75 million square acres (30 million hectares), of temperate rainforests still exists, according to The Nature Conservancy. Ranching, mining, logging and agriculture are the main reasons for forest loss. Between 2000 and 2012, more than 720,000 square miles (2 million square km) of forests around the world were cut down — an area about the size of all the states east of the Mississippi River.

    Deforestation around the world also decreases the global flow of water vapor from land by 4 percent, according to an article published by the journal National Academy of Sciences. Water constantly cycles through the atmosphere. It evaporates from the surface and rises, condensing into clouds. It is blown by the wind, and then falls back to Earth as rain or snow. In addition, water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, according to NASA. Even a slight change in the flow of water vapor can disrupt weather patterns and climates.

    “Rainforests are under increasing threats for many reasons, including logging, clearing for crops or cattle, and conversion to commercial palm oil plantations,” Jonathan Losos, director of the Living Earth Collaborative and William H. Danforth Distinguished University Professor for the Department of Biology, at Washington University in St. Louis, told Live Science. “On top of that, the changing climate is having adverse effects on rainforest health. Last year was an especially bad one for the Amazon, with a substantial uptick in the rate of deforestation.”

    On the other hand, Losos said, there are some glimmers of hope:

    • The two countries with the largest amount of rainforest – Indonesia and Brazil – have both acknowledged the importance of these forests and have taken innovative and aggressive efforts to halt deforestation.
    • There is a growing understanding that halting deforestation and reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are closely linked; new, large-scale efforts are under way to address both concerns.
    • While there is a continued decline in primary rainforests, a bright spot is the fact that in many tropical countries, there is an extensive regeneration of secondary forests, which are critical to supporting much of these countries’ biodiversity.

    Additional resources

    • The Rainforest Foundation
    • The Rainforest Alliance
    • Scientific American: Measuring the Daily Destruction of the World’s Rainforests

    Plants to grow under trees: part 1

    Overview

    Plants that are to be grown under trees and at the bases of hedges need to be chosen with care. The soil in these spots of the garden can be dry, depleted of nutrients and shady, and not all plants will grow in those conditions.

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    Read about plants that will grow under trees in summer and autumn.

    However, if you prepare the soil well, choose the right plants and help them settle in properly, certain plants will thrive in these tricky spots.

    Choose from our selection of plants below, which will give colour and interest in winter and spring.

    Pulmonaria offers bee-friendly flowers in a range of colours, from purple to blue to pink, red and white.

    Snowdrops

    The demurely nodding flowers of snowdrops (Galanthus) brave the coldest weather in late winter. They do particularly well under the canopy of deciduous trees. Plant them ‘in the green’ and divide established clumps after flowering.

    Flowers: January to February

    A swathe of snowdrops

    Hepaticas

    The European, woodland forms of hepatica love dappled shade, producing pink, blue or white flowers in early spring. ‘Eisvogel’ is a great choice, as it shows up well in dark places.

    Flowers: February to March

    A white Hepatica ‘Eisvogel’ flower

    Lungwort

    A tough but pretty groundcover plant, Pulmonaria offers bee-friendly flowers in a range of colours, from purple to blue to pink, red and white. These stand above silver-flecked foliage. A British native wild flower, it requires little care.

    Flowers: February to March

    Pink lungwort flowers

    Wood anemones

    Native woodlander Anemone nemorosa flourishes under deciduous trees and shrubs, producing drifts of scented white flowers just before the canopy comes into leaf. Cultivated forms included double-flowered ‘Vestal’.

    Flowers: March to April

    Double, white Anemone nemorosa ‘Vestal’

    Bloodroot

    Any cool, shady location suits this little woodlander, Sanguinaria canadensis. Each bloom is a perfect rosette of white petals, opening just a few centimetres from the ground, above clasping leaves.

    Flowers: March to April

    White flower and clasping leaves of bloodroot

    Primroses

    One of the first spring flowers, our native primrose, Primula vulgaris, will light up your garden for months on end with its cheery, pale yellow blooms. Allow it to naturalise in shady woodland borders and banks, or plant into pots and window boxes.

    Flowers: March to May

    Yellow primroses

    Bluebells

    Plant this fragrant native wildflower, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, for a sea of blue beneath trees in spring. The bulbs will multiply happily in the dappled shade of deciduous trees, in moist but well-drained soil.

    Flowers: April to May

    Bluebells

    Comfrey

    Symphytum is very easy to grow in damp soil and its flowers attract early foraging bees. There are several colours to choose from, including white and red, but ‘Hidcote Blue’ is a favourite, great for filling gaps between shrubs.

    Flowers: April to May

    Pink comfrey flowers

    Epimedium

    These robust shade-lovers spread quickly, covering the ground with their leathery foliage. This is infused with rich bronze hues in early spring and turns green over summer. Above the leaves rise airy clouds of tiny flowers.

    Flowers: April to May

    Coral-pink, star-burst flowers of epimedium

    Lesser periwinkle

    The pretty flowers of Vinca minor give a long season of interest under trees. ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ is a compact variety with pure white flowers and evergreen leaves, ideally for brightening shady areas.

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    Flowers: April to September

    Purple periwinkle flower

    Growing lesser periwinkle

    Vinca minor is a popular ground cover plant. Is a smaller version of its more vigorous relative, greater periwinkle. Its leaves, flowers and growth rate are about two-thirds those of Vinca major. Cut back any unwanted shoots in spring to prevent it covering too large an area.

    Plants to grow under trees: part 2

    Plants that are to be grown under trees and at the bases of hedges need to be chosen carefully, as not all plants will thrive in these tricky conditions.

    Advertisement

    Read about plants that will grow under trees in winter and spring.

    The soil under trees can be dry, depleted of nutrients and shady, so the soil needs to be prepared well before planting.

    Choose from our selection of plants below, which will give colour and interest in summer and autumn.

    The soil under trees can be dry, depleted of nutrients and shady, so the soil needs to be prepared well before planting.

    Aquilegias

    Aquilegias flourish in dappled shade. They come in many pretty colours and flower shapes. Stalwarts of the cottage garden, they are equally at home in a woodland setting, where they self-seed happily.

    Flowers: May to June

    A red and white aquilegia flower

    Hardy cranesbills

    Hardy cranesbills are a reliable source of flowers and colour in shady spots and bloom for months. Geranium ‘Wargrave Pink’ flowers right through the summer and will self-seed to create new plants.

    Flowers: May to October

    Geranium ‘Wargrave Pink’

    Honesty

    Not only does Lunaria annua have pretty, nectar-rich flowers in late spring – it produces disc-like seedheads that are a feature in themselves and remain throughout winter. This popular biennial is easy to grow from seed.

    Flowers: May to June

    Purple honesty flowers and bronze seedheads

    Solomon’s Seal

    With green-tipped flowers on arching stems and lush green foliage, Polygonatum x hybridum is an elegant choice for a shady spot with moist, humus-rich soil. The flowers are followed by black, berry-like fruits.

    Flowers: May to June

    Cream bells of Solomon’s seal

    Sweet woodruff

    Native Galium odoratum thrives in damp shade, but will cope in dry shade if given a cool spot. It’s a good choice for a woodland setting among shrubs, where it will form a carpet of hay-scented flowers.

    Flowers: May to June

    Tiny white sweet woodruff flowers

    Clustered bellflower

    The tall, densely-packed flowerheads of Campanula glomerata make a big impact all summer. This reliable perennial will soon spread to form a large patch.

    Flowers: June to August

    Purple clustered bellflowers

    Dog’s tooth violet

    Swept-back petals give great character to graceful erythroniums. It comes in a range of colours, including white and yellow, and loves a cool, shady spot with moist, humus-rich soil. In the right site it will spread slowly to form a thriving colony.

    Pink flowers of dog’s tooth violet

    Foxgloves

    Foxgloves (Digitalis) love the shade under trees and are great for adding height in borders. ‘Candy Mountain’ has upward-facing flowers, which makes their speckled throats easier to admire.

    Pink speckled flowers of foxglove ‘Candy Mountain’

    Cyclamen hederifolium

    Cyclamen hederifolium is well adapted to growing under deciduous trees, as it goes dormant in summer, then sends up a volley of tiny shuttlecock flowers in early autumn. Its evergreen leaves remain over winter.

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    Flowers: September to October

    A mass of pink cyclamen flowers

    Cyclamen hederifolium growing tip

    Mulch Cyclamen hederifolium annually with well-rotted leaf mould – this will prevent the tubers from drying out in summer.

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