Tropical trees are those trees that come from the tropics, the geographic global region alongside the Equator between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. This tropical region includes Hawaii, parts of Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, Brazil, Africa, India, the Philippines and Southeast Asia. It prominently includes the rainforest regions of the world; tropical forests are also known as the “rainforest.”
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Tropical trees include the popular palm tree, but also other exotic varieties such as: balsam of Tolu, balsam of Peru, Brazil nut, cabbage tree, chocolate and the rubber tree. Imagine the ability to have any variety of tropical trees within any interior or exterior setting, regardless of geography, lighting, temperature or maintenance schedules around the world.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden suggests tropical trees that grow fruit indoors: Natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa), Surinam cherry (Eugenia uniflora), rumberry (Myrcia floribunda), or Barbados gooseberry (Pereskia aculeate).
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, maintains a Center for Tropical Forest Science. The center has a global network of studies that keep watch on more than 3 million individual tropical trees, representing over 6,000 tree species. Among one of the more recent findings: Diversity in tropical tree species leads directly to higher diversity in leaf-eating insects. Those findings were written up in Science magazine after a team studied 14 species in the wild in Papua New Guinea.
Internationally, tropical trees have tremendous amounts of diversity in their species. A plot of land, 130 acres, can contain as many as 1,100 tropical tree species, according to Science Daily. Six large plots of land, 60 to 130 acres, in five South American and Asian countries have tropical trees grown that are described as “clumped” or “aggregated” together – in the wild.
Some tropical trees and hardwoods are grown on plantations and farms, particularly in Costa Rica, in order to protect the rainforests from deforestation. Over the past decade, more than 90% of the total global deforestation has taken place in moist tropical forests where tropical trees grow. This is due to logging or forest conversion, the majority of which is in Africa and the tropical parts of the Americas.
A recent study out of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California found that tropical trees are better at fighting global warming than trees in other places of the world. That’s because of the carbon dioxide that tropical trees absorb; evaporating water that forms clouds; and having dark-colored leaves to absorb more sunlight than light-colored leaves.
Tropical trees are increasingly seen as a valuable renewable natural resource. They maintain and improve soil fertility, and provide protection from sun, wind and heavy raindrops. Tropical trees also yield a great range of important products, play a critical role in many farming systems, and form the base of the food chain for numerous animals. Their presence is essential for the survival of people in the tropic regions – and beyond.
Tropical trees present a wide variety of beautiful botanic forms of nature for any garden or interior setting. They pay witness to the remarkable rainforests around the world.