Special Trees of Brazil
Brazil has an enormous number of native trees with a great diversity of species. A tree is considered native if it is indigenous to an ecosystem, region, or country. When certain tree species grow only in a particular biome or ecosystem, they are called endemic. If a tree is native to a particular region and is introduced to another, it is considered exotic there. There are about 800 billion trees in tropical rainforests. For comparison, there are 100 rainforest trees for every one of the approximately 8 billion people in the world. Here, you can learn more about the trees you might meet during your Brazil trip.
What is special is not only the number of trees, but also their diversity. There are over 60,000 known tree species on earth, 15,000 of which grow in the tropics, that is, every fourth tree species! In Brazil alone, there are 9,000 different tree species. In the US, there are only about 1,000 different tree species. However, this wealth is also used economically. Researchers estimate that 15.3 billion trees are felled worldwide every year. And since humans began farming, nearly half of the trees that originally grew on earth have been cleared. But with the necessary rules, the wealth can be preserved. We present some examples of typical and special tree species in the following sections.
Non-endemic Tree Species in Brazil
Euterpe Edulis – Tree with a Big Heart
Euterpe Edulis, also known as the Jussara palm or Juçara palm, is a species of palm native to South America that has been severely depleted by the extraction of palm hearts. It is native to Brazil and has become an important crop in South America for its palm hearts, palmitos. Euterpe grows up to 24.6 feet tall, is slender, and has a striking green canopy. The pinnate leaves have many narrow leaflets. It prefers warm and humid regions and is therefore found in many parts of Central and South America.
Schinus terebinthifolia – The False Pepper
The Brazilian pepper tree belongs to the sumac family. The Brazilian pepper tree grows as an evergreen shrub or small, often multi-stemmed tree and reaches growth heights of up to 29 or 33 feet. The trunk diameter reaches over 30 centimeters. It has a round crown and alternate, stalked, imparipinnate leaves with often slightly winged, somewhat hairy rhachis. They are slightly leathery, up to 4 to 7.5 centimeters long, and ovate. The glossy foliage emits a peppery odor when rubbed or broken. The fruits of this Brazilian spice plant are used as a spice under the name "pink pepper", "rosé pepper", or "pink berries". They are not true pepper, but are added to colored pepper for optical reasons instead of the rare red pepper. They have a mild aromatic flavor. The fruit is often used as a Christmas decoration, which is why it is also called "Christmas berry".
Cupuaçu – All-purpose Fruit in the North of Brazil
Of course, a tree with a typical fruit like cupuaçu cannot be missed! Cupuaçu or large-flowered cocoa is a plant species of the genus Theobroma within the mallow family. This small tree is originally from Brazil. The plant grows in humid tropical forests, in high, non-flooded areas with temperatures between 71 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The tree can grow up to 49 feet high and, like cocoa, needs shade to grow. It produces a fruit in the form of a drupe, which contains between 20 and 50 seeds covered by a yellowish-white, sour pulp that has a good aroma. In addition, the fruits are also used for numerous cosmetic products. Its fruits can be used in a similar way to those of the related cocoa, but cupuaçu has so far had a rather low commercial importance compared to cocoa in the US.
Endemic Trees in Brazil
Botanically, Pernambuco, Portuguese Pau-brasil, belongs to the Fabaceae, a group of the papilionaceous plants. The species is native to northeastern Brazil, in what is known as the Mata Atlantica. There, the tree has been prized for its dye-containing wood since the 16th century. As the main export product, Pernambuco had great importance in the 16th to 18th centuries, which gave it its name: "brasa" is Portuguese for "shine". Pernambuco was declared the tree of Brazil and unceremoniously placed under protection. The cause of its decline, however, was neither colored wood collectors nor bow makers, but pulp mills and the agricultural industry. Thus, large parts of its original range have been converted into industrial plantations and are now used for the industrial production of sugar cane, eucalyptus pulp, and Robusta coffee. It is known that the Pernambuco can be easily and cheaply propagated and reforested. However, its cultivation is less profitable than its production. In addition, the wood grows much more slowly, so that its planting can hardly compete economically with fast-growing plantations.
Chuva de Ouro – Golden Chain Tree
The Chuva de Ouro charms with beautiful clusters of hanging flowers that make this species one of the most interesting native trees in Brazil. The Chuva de Ouro is a 32-65 feet tall tree species with a columnar trunk that bifurcates near the base, 30-40 centimeters in diameter and covered by a thin brownish bark. The leaves are opposite crossed, simple, glabrous, and distinctly ribbed on the underside. The showy yellow flowers are in clusters in inflorescences. This tree occurs naturally in the Amazon, especially in the central part. The wood is moderately heavy and hard, compact, and moderately resistant to fungal and bacterial attack. It is used in construction as beams, rafters, cladding, for woodwork, and light carpentry. The flowering period is between February and May, and the fruit ripens in September and October. The tree is excellent as an ornamental plant for landscaping and is of great importance for planting in damaged areas to be preserved. In addition, this tree is excellent for reforestation, environmental protection, urban reforestation, landscaping, and planting gardens.
Cordia Superba – White Aloe Vera
The White Aloe is an endemic species of the Boraginaceae family that can grow up to 32 feet high. Cordia Superba has simple leaves, without stipules, elliptical to oval, green, and rough on the abaxial side, with sunken veins on the adaxial side. Flowering time is from October to February, with large white flowers arranged in terminal spikes, and corrugated buds with attached stamens. The white aloe stem is covered with gray, scaly bark and is 20 to 30 centimeters in diameter. The wood is suitable for carpentry, bodywork, and woodwork. Native to central Brazil, this species has great potential for urban reforestation in the South and Southeast, as it adapts well to the climate of these regions and can be planted under the electrical grid. White aloe vera can also be used for landscaping. It presents itself with beautiful white flowers that pleasantly beautify its surroundings. It is one of the native species of trees that bear fruit, but they are eaten only by birds and other animals.
Diversity and Beauty
This was just a small sample of the many tree species native to Brazil. For those of you interested in the fauna and flora of Brazil, there is more than enough to discover in terms of the biodiversity and practical uses of these trees. Keep an eye out for the diversity of trees as you stroll through nature on your Brazil vacation!
Sources: www.abenteuer-regenwald.de, www.brasilienportal.ch, www.espen.de, www.ibflorestas.org.br