Introduction to the Common Plants of the Amazon Rainforest.
When we visit the Rainforest for the first time, the familiar Plants will blow our minds away in many ways, the amount of different Plants living in here is overwhelming.
As we go deep in our journey, we start picking up the regular plants around us by looking at their natural characteristics such as leaf shapes, leaves arrangments, flowers, and fruits.
Many of the stereotype plants have adapted to live in different habitats such as terra firme, várzea, oxbow lakes, and landslides, and in all the forest strata are present.
The well-established plants of the Amazon Rainforest are popular for many species of animals, just think about Cecropia Tree, it brings several species of Monkeys, Bats, Birds, Ants, Butterflies, Sloths, and Kinkajou just to list a few!
We have prepared a small collection of the most common genera of plants you will find useful while you explore the Diversity of Life in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve and Yasuni Biosphere Reserve.
Check the list of the Common and Conspicuous Plants of the Rainforest below:
Aphelandra is a genus of flowering plants in the family Acanthaceae, native to tropical regions of the Americas.
They are evergreen shrubs growing to 1–2 m tall, with opposite, simple leaves 5–30 cm long, often with white veins.
The flowers are produced in dense spikes, with brightly colored bracts. Several species are grown as houseplants for their patterned leaves and brightly colored inflorescences.
Philodendron is one of the largest genera in the Araceae family. It has an extremely diverse array of growth methods.
The habits of growth can be epiphytic, hemiepiphytic, or rarely terrestrially. The leaves are usually large and imposing, often lobed or deeply cut, and may be more or less pinnate.
They can also be oval, spear-shaped, or in many other possible shape variations.
The leaves are borne alternately on the stem; juvenile leaves and adult leaves can be drastically different from one another.
When philodendrons are ready to reproduce, they will produce an inflorescence that consists of a leaf-like hood called a spathe within which is enclosed a tube-like structure called a spadix. Birds eat their fruits
The name derives from the Greek words Philo- or “love, affection” and dendron, or “tree”.
Anthurium is a genus in the Araceae family often growing as epiphytes on other plants. Some are terrestrial. The leaves are often clustered and are variable in shape.
The inflorescence bears small flowers which are perfect, containing male and female structures. The flowers are contained in dense spirals on the spadix.
The spadix is often elongated into a spike shape, but it can be globe-shaped or club-shaped. Beneath the spadix is the spathe, a type of bract.
This is variable in shape, as well, but it is lance-shaped in many species. It may extend out flat or in a curve. Sometimes it covers the spadix like a hood.
The fruits develop from the flowers on the spadix. They are juicy berries varying in color, usually containing two seeds.
Anthurium can be poisonous due to calcium oxalate crystals. The sap is irritating to the skin and eyes. Birds such as Euphonias, Tanagers, and Manakins eat their fruits
Begonia are terrestrial (sometimes epiphytic) herbs or shrubs, and occur in subtropical and tropical moist climates, in South and Central America, Africa, and southern Asia.
They are commonly upright-stemmed, rhizomatous, or tuberous. begonia are monoecious, with unisexual male and female flowers occurring separately on the same plant; the male contains numerous stamens, and the female has a large inferior ovary and two to four branched or twisted stigmas.
In most species, the fruit is a winged capsule containing numerous minute seeds, although baccate fruits are also known.
The leaves, which are often large and variously marked or variegated, are usually asymmetric (unequal-sided).
Centropogon is a neotropical endemic genus of plant in the family Campanulaceae. The hummingbirds compete for the nectar of Centropogon
Dichorisandra is a neotropical genus characterized by its slightly zygomorphic flowers with large anthers usually releasing pollen by means of pores at the apex, as well as by its seeds that are embedded in a red or sometimes white aril, and tubers that often form at the tips of the roots.
Geogenanthus is a genus of plants with 3 species in the family Commelinaceae (the spiderwort and dayflower family).
The genus is distributed from Colombia to Amazonian Peru and Brazil. Aerial shoots unbranched and determinate in length, up to 0.75 m, with a terminal rosette of leaves. The leaves at lower nodes mere tubular leaf sheaths.
All plant parts somewhat succulents and grow on the floor of primary rainforests and possess a shallow underground, short, branching rhizome.
Flowers consist of 3 green-brown sepals, 3 blue, pink or purple petals fringed with moniliform hairs, 4-6 stamens and 3 connate carpels. Its flowers have no fragrance detectable to the human nose.
Costus is a genus of perennial herbaceous plants in the family Costaceae, widespread through tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
Costus is often characterized and distinguished from relatives such as Zingiber (true ginger) by its spiraling stems. The genus as a whole is thus often called spiral gingers,
Abarema is a neotropical genus of large trees in the legume family. They grow from Mexico to Bolivia.
Most of the species can be found in the Amazon Basin and the Guyana Highlands. They have deep-green fernlike foliage, with bipinnately compound leaves.
For lack of a better name, they are collectively called abaremas.
Calliandra is a genus of flowering plants in the pea family, Fabaceae, subfamily Mimosoideae. It contains about 140 species that are native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas.
The genus comprises herbaceous perennial plants, shrubs and rarely small trees growing 0.5–6 m tall, with bipinnate leaves.
The flowers are produced in cylindrical or globose inflorescences and have numerous long slender stamens which give rise to the common names powder-puff, powder puff plant, and fairy duster. These plants flower all year round.
Brownea is a genus of about 30 species in the family Fabaceae. The genus is native to tropical regions of the Americas. The species are shrubs and trees growing to 20 m tall.
Zygia is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the legume family (Fabaceae). They are trees or shrubs, unarmed; Hermaphrodite plants.
The bipinnate leaves, with a single pair of pinnacles; The petioles are very reduced, and glandular. Inflorescences fascicles of chaplets or cauliflorous spikes; Stamens more than 10, monadelphous.
The fruit is flat, straight, slightly curved or rolled, membranous or coriaceous, dehiscent or indehiscent; Spherical-flattened or quadrangular seeds, papyraceous test, without aril.
Nautilocalyx is a genus of plants in the family Gesneriaceae.
Characterized by an obligate terrestrial habit; leaf blades that are cuneate to attenuate at the base; and funnelform corolla with an oblique limb and reflexed petal lobes with glandular trichomes clustered on the lateral and lower inner surfaces of the throat.
Heliconia is a genus of flowering plants in the Heliconiaceae. native to the tropical Americas, but a few are indigenous to certain islands of the western Pacific and Maluku. Many species of Heliconia are found in rainforests or tropical wet forests of these regions.
These herbaceous plants range from 0.5 to nearly 4.5 meters (1.5–15 feet) tall depending on the species. The simple leaves of these plants are 15–300 cm (6 in-10 ft). They are characteristically long, oblong, alternate, or growing opposite one another on non-woody petioles often longer than the leaf, often forming large clumps with age.
Their flowers are produced on long, erect, or drooping panicles, and consist of brightly colored waxy bracts, with small true flowers peeping out from the bracts.
The growth habit of heliconias is similar to Canna, Strelitzia, and bananas, to which they are related.
The flowers can be hues of reds, oranges, yellows, and greens, and are subtended by brightly colored bracts. The plants typically flower during the wet season.
These bracts protect the flowers; floral shape often limits pollination to a subset of the hummingbirds.
Grias is a genus of flowering plants in the family Lecythidaceae, It is native to northwestern South America, Central America, and Jamaica.
They are small to medium-sized trees, growing to 5-15 m tall. The leaves are evergreen, alternate, simple, broadly lanceolate, very large, up to 1 m long, with an entire or waved margin. The flowers are creamy white to yellow, with four petals; they are cauliflorous, produced in clusters on the trunk and stouter branches. The fruit is 6-15 cm long, with a fleshy coat; it is edible in several species.
Gustavia belongs to the part of the Lecythidaceae that has regular or actinomorphic flowers and is considered basal among the Neotropical genera.
It is widely distributed along rivers margins throughout Amazonia and in the Guianas and the distribution extends as far into north-eastern Brazil.
Calathea is a genus of plants belonging to the family Marantaceae. There are several dozen species in this genus.
Native to the tropical Americas; the large and tough leaves are popular for holding small items and wrapping forest food. many of the species are popular as pot plants due to their decorative leaves and, in some species, colorful inflorescences.
Calathea foliage is of importance to some herbivores, such as the caterpillars of the Owl Butterfly (Caligo sp). Due to habitat destruction, several species are threatened with extinction.
Calathea flowers are pollinated mainly by bees and other bugs. Hummingbirds visit the Calathea flowers throughout the forest. Calathea flower bracts come in various shapes – from beehive shape flower bracts to rattlesnake tail shapes.
Marcgravia is a genus of plant in the family Marcgraviaceae, native to the Caribbean Islands, Central America, and South America. Marcgravia is also is known as Shingle Vine.
It’s a fast-growing flowering vine found in moist, humid conditions of the rainforest climbing high on trees. It’s flat-leaved vines grab hold of tree trunks with aerial roots. Once it climbs high enough,
Marcgravia sends out lateral branches and blooms with pendulous flower clusters which are pollinated by birds and bats.
Miconia is a genus of flowering plants in the glory bush family, Melastomataceae, native to warm temperate tropical regions of the Americas.
The species are mostly shrubs and small to medium-sized trees up to 15 m tall. Some species are known by the common name “Johnny Berry”.
Miconia fruit is a favorite food of many birds. The leaves of some species are eaten by caterpillars of the interesting moth-butterflies (Hedylidae).
Many species are threatened by habitat destruction in their native range, and some are feared to be on the brink of extinction.
On the other hand, Miconia. is a contributing factor in the decline and maybe even extinction of other plants: it has become a highly invasive weed on a number of Pacific Islands where it was introduced.
Siparuna is a genus of plants belonging to the family Siparunaceae. Dioecious or monoecious sarmentose shrubs, treeless, or trees to 40 m high, aromatic due to abundant quantities of volatile oil in oil cells throughout the plant, sparsely or densely pubescent, found throughout the Neotropic ecozone
Leaves decussate or in whorls of 3-6, simple, exstipulate, those of a pair occasionally unequal in size, with stellate, lepidote, or simple hairs, the margin variously serrate, dentate, or entire. Inflorescences axillary or cauliflorous, cymose, sometimes fasciculate.
Fruit consisting of the fleshy receptacle which at maturity splits irregularly to expose (1-) 3-25 small drupelets with a conspicuous red or orange aril (in the neotropical species), the endocarp stony.
Passiflora is a genus of the family Passifloraceae.
Known also as the passion flowers or passion fruits, They are mostly vines, with some being shrubs, and a few species being herbaceous.
The family Passifloraceae has a pantropical distribution. Passiflora itself is absent from Africa, where many other members of the family Passifloraceae occur (e.g. the more plesiomorphic Adenia). Most species are found in South America, eastern Asia, southern Asia, and New Guinea.
The size and structure of flowers of other Passiflora species is optimized for pollination by hummingbirds (especially hermits like Phaethornis), bumble bees, Carpenter bees, wasps or bats, while others are self-pollinating.
The sword-billed hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera) with its immensely elongated bill has co-evolved with certain passion flowers, such as P. mixta.
The leaves are used as food plants by the larva of a number of lepidopterans (Heliconius and Agraulis).
To prevent the butterflies from laying too many eggs on any single plant, some passion flowers bear small colored nubs which resemble the butterflies’ eggs and seem to fool them into believing that more eggs have already been deposited on a plant that actually is the case.
Also, many Passiflora species produce sweet nutrient-rich liquid from glands on their leaf stems.
These fluids attract ants which will kill and eat many pests that they happen to find feeding on the passion flowers.
Pariana is a genus of the grass family Poaceae tropical American plants in. It is native to South America. Plants can be tall and stout, evergreen, perennial grass with densely leafy culms, usually growing 1 meter tall.
Capirona is a monotypic genus of flowering plants in the Rubiaceae family. The genus contains only one species,
A tree can grow up to a height of 30 meters. A canopy tree, which is native to northern South America. It grows white or green flowers between March and April.
It fruits between July and November, seeds are dispersed by the wind and water. Its wood is used for lumber.
During the flowering months, it produces an abundance of white, aromatic flowers, which are followed by elongated seed pods with 3-5 seeds inside.
Its bark is shed periodically to avoid lichens, fungi, epiphytes, and lianas. Bark has antifungal properties for the skin.
Faramea is a genus of plants in the family Rubiaceae.
Plants can be Shrubs or small trees, usually glabrous. Stipules are persistent, connate at the base, spit or arist at the apex. Inflorescence axillary, umbellate, with few flowers. Fruit drupaceous, coriaceous, subglobose; a seed.
The genus Faramea consists of more than 200 species distributed from Mexico to southern Brazil. In Ecuador there are 20 species best represented in the lowlands; 4 species have been recorded in the Andean forests:
Palicourea is a plant genus in the family Rubiaceae. A wide range of habits from shrubs to small trees distributed widely in the New World tropics.
Palicourea plants are typically found in the understory and subcanopy of moist to wet tropical forests, from low to high elevations.
Palicourea flowers have well-developed tubes and are odorless, mostly brightly colored, and assumed to be pollinated by hummingbirds, and their fleshy blue or purple-black fruits are dispersed by birds.
Nearly all Palicourea species are distylous; this appears to be the ancestral condition for the genus, and it seems to have been lost in at least a few species on Caribbean islands
In Ecuador, at least 50 species are represented; 28 have been recorded in the Andean forests:
Psychotria is a genus of flowering plants in the Rubiaceae family. It is one of the largest genera of flowering plants.
The genus has a pantropical distribution and members of the genus are from low to mid-elevation understorey trees in tropical forests.
This heterostylous plant is hummingbird-pollinated, though it is visited by other insects such as butterflies, and its small blue fruits are dispersed by birds.
The presence of alkaloids has led to its common use as a medicinal plant within indigenous populations
Warszewiczia is a genus of flowering plants in the Rubiaceae family. They are primarily tropical Central and South American trees and shrubs.
The inflorescences show leaf-shaped, bright-colored calycophylls, and expanded foliaceous structures made from floral petaloid with enlarged showy calyx-lobes.
Their main task is to attract pollinators such as butterflies. Perhaps the most famous member of the genus is W. coccinea (Chaconia), which is the national flower of Trinidad and Tobago.
Herrania is a genus of flowering plants in the family Malvaceae. Small tree. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests; it is fragmented due to colonization, mining, and deforestation
Clavija is a strange and little-known genus in the Primulaceae from the tropics of the new world.
It is a palm-like, sparsely branched shrub to about 4 m tall, native to lowland forests in Colombia and Ecuador with long, undivided leaves, thick, waxy, scented flowers that are followed by edible, plum-sized, round, yellow fruits with a sharp taste.
Apeiba is a genus of flowering plants in the Malvaceae family. A fast-growing canopy tree in disturbed primary forest and the more open, secondary formations tree that can grow up to 30 meters tall.
The wood of Apeiba is soft and lightweight and used for rafts, the bark is fibrous and used for making rope.
The fruits are conspicuous woody-capsules, globose to flattened-globose, and covered with spines or bristles, giving the plant the local name of “monkey’s comb”
Vitex is a genus of flowering plants in the family Verbenaceae, a genus of shrubs and trees up to 35m tall. Some species have whitish bark that is characteristically furrowed. Leaves are opposite, usually, compound. The fruit is a drupe.