Flora in Brazil

Few nations have as rich a relationship with their forests and plant life as Brazil. In fact the very name of the nation is derived from the pau brasil tree that the Portuguese settlers cut down for its red dye. Such trees can yield up to 450kg of nuts per year.

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40m Brazil Nut TreeThe Brazilian rain forest is majestic and unique: the last Ice Age did not reach it, and it has never suffered drought of an appreciable length of time. Thus, it has followed an incredible evolutionary trajectory, yielding an impressive number of plant species that are not found elsewhere in the world.  Make sure to include a stop in Manaus in your itinerary if you are interested in Brazilian flora.

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The Wonder of the Brazilian Rainforest
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While heavy deforestation has destroyed some of them, recent environmental initiatives, and government regulation of land have encouraged conservation initiatives have largely halted the destruction of plant species. Brazil boasts over 200 species of delicate orchids, and the world's largest variety of palm plants, at 390. Biologists have estimated the number of plant species in Brazil at somewhere around 45,000, but it is difficult to make estimations, as new plants are being discovered all the time, and, unfortunately, species are disappearing as well.

The majority of these plant species are trees, which are estimated to account for around 70% of total vegetation. Among the most important tree species is the rubber tree, which grows both wild, and in sustainable plantations. And while the mahogany tree is protected from exploitation to a large extent, its great beauty and value continues to drive a thriving, and often illegal, industry for sale both within and outside of Brazil.

The rain forest is also home to a breathtaking number of fruits. Many of them only have names in Portuguese, as they exist nowhere else in the world. Some of the more popular fruits include acai, acerola, cupuacu, and guarana. Look for these fruits at juice bars, which are widespread throughout Brazil.

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Environmental Protection
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Acai Tree

Brazil has made leaps and bounds, of late, in environmental protection. Over 1,000 areas, constituting some 1.3 million square kilometers, are now under government protection. This constitutes over 15% of the total area of Brazil, and is growing rapidly.
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Since the 1990s alone, over 20 new parks have been added, and in 2006 the state of Para announced an initiative to protect 150,000 square kilometers of virgin rainforest. Unfortunately, enforcement of these areas is often sporadic, and sometimes non-existent, and there is still a large economic class that subsists off of exploiting the rain forests in unsustainable and dangerous ways.

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