The native country of the prickly pear (Opuntia) is Mexico. The plant that in Estonia is known as “Mother-in-law’s tongue” is called “black sheep cacti” in Mexico, as winds can blow the plants’ insidious little barbed stings into the eyes of eating animals and cause blindness. The plantations of prickly pears have been kept for the cultivation of scale insects. Namely, the scale insects produce a precious red carmine, which is turned into the synthetic food color E120. The Mayans and Aztecs used carmine to dye fabrics. The fruit of the highly nutritious, large-fruited prickly pear which is a highly invasive species is used as food. According to the scientists, adding a cooked, large-fruited prickly pear slice to dirty water makes a cheap and easy way to purify water in places where using other methods is difficult.
San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis pachanoi syn. Trichocereus pachanoi) grows naturally, mainly in Peru and Ecuador. Archaeological excavations have revealed that this cactus has been used as a medicine for millennia. The plant was used to treat joint and nerve diseases and fungi. The mythological cult plant hitherto respected by Indians contains psychoactive alkaloids, producing a hallucinogenic effect. The oldest descriptions of the plant date back to 1300 BC in Peru, where the plant was used for healing, religious services, and prophecy by shamans. The cactus stem extract has been used to make hair washing infusion. Wool garments can be washed with a mixture of stems and salt or alum. In addition, the plant is known as a love potion.
Golder barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) is a slow-growing cactus that can live up to 100 years old and grow up to 2 m in height. Much of the plant’s natural habitats in Mexico were submerged by hydroelectric dam construction, which is why the plant is almost extinct in nature. Mass predatory picking of cacti has also had a devastating impact. Like with all cacti, trading in Golder barrel cacti is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The plant only blooms when it is about twenty years of age, and it may take up to 100 years with dark winters in the Nordic countries. The plant’s popular names are the golden ball or mother-in-law’s cushion.
Jade plant (Crassula ovata), or vernacularly known as monkey-bread-tree, is from Mozambique, South Africa. But the real monkey-bread-trees, or Baobabs, are the gigantic sacred trees thickest in the world, with a circumference of about 30 meters, dating back 2000 years. But the jade plant grows in the wild to only 3-4 meters high. Jade plants have antibacterial properties. Sap squeezed from the leaf can relieve herpes, burns, and arthritis. In African folk medicine, the plant is used to cleanse the intestines.
Kalanchoes (Kalanchoe) are a large family of perennial plants of the Crassula genus, of which there are nearly 200 species. In Chinese, the name means drops and grows, indicating that the plant is very easy to reproduce. Its healing properties have been known since antiquity. In India, for example, Kalanchoe was used to treat the liver, in Madagascar, it was used for treating headaches and inflammation of the lymph nodes. The leaf sap contains flavonoids and vitamin C, which provides an anti-inflammatory effect, promoting rapid wound healing, helps with burns and gum disease. In case of a head cold, it is recommended to drip the leaf sap into the nostril. In cosmetics, the sap of the plant is used in creams and tonics, at home, it is used to moisturize and rejuvenate facial skin. Daigremont and air plant are grown as medicinal plants, the latter being considered a dangerous alien species in many parts of the world.
Agave (Agave) grows mainly in Mexico, but also in the southern and western parts of the United States and in the low precipitation areas of South America. The ancient agave has lived on Earth for about 60 million years. Agaves bloom only once in their lifetime, and their inflorescences up to 12 m in length, which can hold up to 17,000 flowers, are among the longest in the world. Flowers, stems, and leaves are edible. They are economically important plants in their home country: agave juice is used to make both syrup and alcoholic beverages, the most famous of which is Mexican national beverage tequila. In the old days, chewed agave rolls were used in firearms, leaf tips where used in place of a needle, and the sap was used to impregnate the poison arrows, blossom stalks were used as wall logs, leaves were used to build roofs, foaming sap was used as a soap substitute. Some agave leaves are made into strong fiber for ropes. Inferior fibers are suitable for the paper industry, and the higher quality plants are used for the production of yarn.
Aloe (Aloe) originated in Africa. Aloe has been used for healing for thousands of years on many continents and in many cultures. Aloe was an important ingredient in the famous recipe for life elixir. It is known even Cleopatra used the leaf sap for skin care. The plant has been used the most for wound healing and to stimulate digestive activity. Aloe is still an essential ingredient in cosmetics and skin care products. The roots of the plant have been used for washing laundry, the contents of the leaves have made into jam, the hollow stems have been used as a refrigerator, and the finer branches have been used as arrow sheaths. In nature, the plant’s nectar-rich blossoms are an important source of food for insects and birds. Elephants love to feast on aloe leaves.
The natural species distribution of Sansevieria (Sansevieria) is in the savannas of West Africa. In Estonia, the plant is called a pike’s tail because of its leaves resembling fish tail. In other countries, the plant is also called the mother-in-law’s tongue, the leopard lily, and the snake plant. Strong fiber retrieved from plant leaves is used to make rope, canvas, and paper. The sap of the plant is used as an antiseptic. Sanseverias are exceptionally good air purifiers, removing nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde from the air. It is recommended to grow the plants in the bedroom because they produce oxygen at night and thus humidify the air. However, for sensitive people, blooming plants can cause dizziness.
Elkhorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) comes from New Guinea and Australia. Plants that grow as epiphytes in high tree crowns in the rainforest resemble bird nests and have two types of leaves. Plant remains, and dead animals accumulate between the round leaves forming the ‘nest’, the decay of which gives the plant the necessary minerals. Old leaves that turn brown over time and look like paper provide the roots nutrients when they rot. Others – long, horn-shaped leaves carrying small brown velvety sporocarps are necessary for the plant to reproduce. The leaves are covered with a gray, felty coat that serves to collect moisture and nutrients. The plants grow very large over the years, and old plants can be the size of a passenger car and weigh over a ton.
Ferns (Dryopteris) can be found in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere and in the sub-tropics. The explosive proliferation of ferns on Earth began 335 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period. For millennia, dead plants decayed into a carbon-rich layer. It formed today’s fossil fuels, or energy sources, that triggered the industrial revolution. The value of coal was discovered in the 18th century, and its trade became a gigantic business in the world – steam engines were invented, and coal heating spread. This led to the big cities falling into the thick cloud of smoke and reaching the edge of today’s climate disaster. In the mythology of many nations, finding fern blossoms bring luck, although ferns as cryptogams never bloom.
Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia) is common in South America and Nepal. Throughout history, they have been considered the real sacred plants of gods with healing powers that can only be consumed by strong and blessed people. The highly toxic angel’s trumpets contain psychoactive alkaloids that make them some of the strongest hallucinogens in the world. The effect of the plant depends on the peculiarities of the human body, so its effect is unpredictable, ranging from speech disorders to seizures and even death. Ancient Peruvian healers used the plant’s narcotic properties in rituals and medical operations, such as opening the skull. The plant’s stem bark is used to make a ritual potion that enables us to see the future.
The story of the Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides) becoming a houseplant is famous and strange. The species was first described in 1906, but the plant was soon forgotten. In the 1970s, questions about unknown plants with shield-spaced leaves began to pour into botanical gardens in the UK. It was thought to be peperomia. In fact, the plant was not identified until 1978, when an unknown flowering plant was sent to the Kew Botanical Garden, which was eventually identified as the long-forgotten Chinese money plant. However, the scientists were wondering how come the unknown plant was widespread in homes, even in Scandinavia? It turned out that in 1946 a missionary, Agnar Espegren, brought the plants with him when returning from China to Norway and gave their cuttings to his acquaintances. The plant spread to Sweden and Great Britain and from there onto the wide world.
The pelargonium (Pelargonium) plant family is named after the Greek word pelargos, or stork, which refers to the peculiar shape of the stork’s beak. The first pelargoniums reached Europe in the late 16th century. In the 18th century, botanists were sent to South Africa to obtain plant seeds, and growing pelargoniums for commercial purposes started as early as the second half of the century. The 19th century saw the beginning of the triumph of the plants: thanks to the ability to produce hybrids, ground was laid to the ancestors of modern pelargoniums and new species. Pelargoniums were once planted around the house to deter evil spirits and serpents. Insects do not like the smell of the plants, so they could also be used to repel them. Pelagron, or geranium oil, is used in the cosmetics industry.
The common ivy (Hedera helix) originates from Europe, and it also grows on the islands of West Estonia, where it is under nature protection. The name of the plant is derived from the tradition of using it in treating bone diseases. The plant has also been used to treat corns and cough. Ivy is poisonous, but one better not try to make medicine of the plant at home. In ancient times, ivy was dedicated to the god of wine Dionysos, which is why in southern countries you can still see images of ivy carved on the doors of old taverns. The plant has been considered sacred, placed on the doors for protection against an evil eye, and in bridal bouquets to bring luck. The fruits of the plant are delicious food for birds.
Arabica coffee tree (Coffea arabica) comes from Northeast Africa, more specifically from Ethiopian mountain forests. Coffee, Ethiopian black gold, is the second most important commodity in the world. The world’s first coffee shop was opened in Turkey in 1475 and the first coffee shop in Italy in 1645. Historically, even anti-coffee laws have been considered, due to people becoming too agitated. When coffee became an upper-class beverage, the underclass was punished by beating and fines for drinking coffee. Coffee reached Europe in the 13th century. Researchers have found that older patients with higher levels of caffeine in their blood were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, and that caffeine also had a positive effect on type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Coffee contains caffeine, and it is claimed that most coffee drinkers are actually addicted to it.
The original home of the lemon tree (Citrus limon) is unknown, and it has been grown as cultivated and medicinal plants as well as a decorative tree for thousands of years. As a medicinal plant, lemon was already used in ancient Egypt to prevent fish and meat poisoning. In England, a law was once introduced to allocate a daily ration of an ounce of lemon or lemon juice for the crew to prevent scurvy from vitamin C deficiency. It was not until the 18th century that lemons were used as food and herbs. Lemon can rightly be considered a super fruit that helps to maintain good health and well-being. Lemon contains many different vitamins, especially vitamin C, which promotes the absorption of iron from food. Lemon oil strengthens the body’s defense system and stimulates blood circulation and is used in the cosmetics and alcohol industry. The world’s heaviest lemon was grown in Israel in 2003, and it weighed more than five kilograms.
The habitat of oleander (Nerium oleander) is southern Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Arabian Peninsula. It is one of the most toxic plants in the world that grows on the shores of water bodies in the wild. Contact with the plant and the eyes can cause blindness, and toxins can even be transmitted through honey. Accidents have happened to livestock and pets that have drunk from a body of water where plant flowers or leaves have fallen. The juice of the plant is used as a rat poison and for insect control. The smell of flowers can be intoxicating. Plants have been known to be grown to decorate sculptures already in the garden of wife of the ancient Roman emperor Nero and frescoes depicting oleanders have been found in Pompeii. The heyday of the plants as houseplants was in the 19th and early 20th centuries when the plants decorated the winter gardens of manors and the porches of rich people.
Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) comes from the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor. The plant is considered to be one of the most glorious and powerful magical plants. The bay laurel is associated with the word bachelor, or bay berry, which was introduced in ancient Rome to honor men for their academic achievements. The laurel wreath has been the greatest tribute to heroes since antique culture. The word ‘laureate’ also derives from the Latin name of the laurel. The laurel tree is the symbolic tree of both the Greek and the Olympic Games. The first reports of the use of laurel as an herb date back to the fifth century. In addition, vegetable fruits produce essential bay oils with antibiotic properties.
Most species of Dragon Tree (Dracaena) grow in Africa, some in South Asia, and one in Central America. It is difficult to determine the age of the tree because the dragon tree has no tree rings. The tree has not been given the name Dragon Tree for nothing. Namely, if the tip of the stem of the plant gets damaged, it produces several new stems instead, just like a dragon who grows new heads in place of the severed head. The plant contains a red resin called dragon blood. Dragon trees have been used to polish furniture, brush teeth, make lipsticks, healing and embalming the dead. In witchcraft, resin was added to the ink used to write magical messages to talismans. The resin lacquer has been used to lacquer the violins of the most famous violin master Stradivarius in Italy.
Rubber tree (Ficus elastica) or rubber fig tree originates from the jungles of the coastal areas of India and can grow up to 30 meters in nature. At home, the plant can grow from 60 centimeters to three meters. The plant is grown to obtain rubber from its milky sap. The fresh milky sap is poisonous, so care should be taken to prevent it coming into contact with the eyes. The Rubber tree is environmentally friendly, one of the most durable and non-deformable wood materials that today is used to make furniture. The plant extract has been used for the treatment of rheumatic diseases and infusion externally for bronchitis.
The fig tree (Ficus) probably originated from western Asia. It is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world, grown for 7 thousand years. The fig tree plays an important role in the religions of the Orient. In Christian culture, this tree of the knowledge of good and evil symbolizes the shame as Adam and Eve covered their nudity with fig leaves. In the ancient world, the figs were eaten to invigorate oneself, the sap was used to remove warts, and the leaves were used to make compresses. Figs are nowadays used in the confectionery, canning and alcohol industries. Many fig tree species reach record size over their lifetime. Aerating roots descend from the branches of some species and, when rooted, form additional stems. The most famous of these is the Bengal fig, which can occupy 2 hectares of land. A fig tree can be pollinated by one wasp species, Blastophaga.
The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) comes from the desert regions of North Africa and West Asia and has been cultivated for 6 to 8 thousand years. The capital city of the state of Arizona, Phoenix, is named after a date palm. In addition, the plant is a Saudi Arabian national tree. No other plant in history has been depicted as much as the date palm, which indicates its important status at that time. All the old religions have used the palm leaves as a symbol of peace, harmony, and resurrection, and holiness. In ancient times, dates were the main food for most of the year. In addition, dates can be used to produce honey, wine and seeds can be used to produce date coffee. According to an old Arab saying, there were as many ways of its use as there are days in a year. Israeli scientists have grown a date palm tree from a two thousand years old seed, which is the oldest seed in the world to begin to germinate. This provides an opportunity to study plant DNA thoroughly.
Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea) is a symbolic plant of Guam, Grenada, Philippines, and many other places. The plant bears different names in different countries, such as Santa Rita, Primavera, and Napoleon. In nature, this climbing plant grows to 12 m in height when attached to trees. The bougainvillea is named after the French admiral Antoine de Bougainville, who discovered the plant in Brazil. Small unobtrusive tubular flowers are surrounded by three bracts resembling brightly colored silk paper to attract pollinator hummingbirds. Only towards the end of the 20th century, scientists succeeded in distinguishing and definitively identifying the various species of bougainvillea and finding that most home-grown specimens are hybrids.
Chilean Pine (Araucaria araucana) is a plant from central Chile and western Argentina that has lived on Earth for about 100 million years. These very longeval conifers can live up to 2000 years. Therefore, the Chilean Pine is the national tree of Chile. This plant is also known in the world as a monkey puzzle because its sharp needles make it difficult to climb on the tree. The tree became known to Europeans in the 18th century, as described by Captain James Cook. In the 19th century, the plant became a favorite of European gardeners and was planted in many gardens in England. The Chilean Pine cone seeds are known as pine nuts, which are naturally distributed by parrots. Fruit resin was used to treat wounds.
Diefenbachia (Dieffenbachia) originates from the tropical and subtropical forests of Central and South America. This highly toxic plant acts at the cellular level, causing damage to various parts of the body. When eating the plant, the deadly amount is already 3-4 g of plant leaves. Symptoms of intoxication include burns, swelling in the mouth, vomiting, and palpitations. Contact with the eyes may cause corneal inflammation. Therefore, the plant stalk was used in South America to torture slaves, as chewing the plant causes loss of ability to eat and talk for days. In tropical and subtropical regions, it is a common plant in landscaping. In folk medicine, the plant was used to increase sexual pleasure or potency. Studies in the Philippines promise to rely on the plant for cancer treatment.
The large-flowered cactus (Selenicereus grandiflorus), or the Queen of the Night, comes from Central and South America. The cacti firmly holding to the bark cracks of the trees with aerating roots appear bland most of the year. Only one night a year does the plant open its large vanilla-scented flowers. White flowers up to 30 cm in diameter are needed to attract large moths and nectar-eating bats. Nocturnal flowering is beneficial for the plant as the temperature is cooler, which means less water evaporates from the flower. Because of its beautiful blooms, the plant was grown in the Royal Court Garden of Hampton Court in the UK in the 17th century.
Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima ) or Christmas Flower grows in the deciduous forests of Central America. This plant can grow up to 4 m in height as a shrub or tree. The tips of the shoots have beautiful, mostly red-colored bracts, not flowers. The coloring of the bracts requires the alternation of light and darkness – just as it happens in their natural habitat. The flowers of the Christmas Flower are actually very tiny, yellow, and are placed in bulk in the middle of each red bunch of leaves. It is widely believed that the poinsettia is seriously toxic, like many other plants in the spurge family, but in fact, the plant contains very little toxic sap and latex. Several hundred leaves of plants should be eaten to get serious intoxication. Association of the Christmas Flower with Christmas began with a legend about a poor girl living in Mexico in the 16th century who, at the suggestion of an angel, picked weed from the roadside and brought it to the altar of the Church for Jesus as a birthday present. A beautiful Christmas Flower grew out of the weeds. The bracts of the plant resemble the Bethlehem star, and their red color is reminiscent of the bloody sacrifice of Jesus.
Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) is a plant originating in South Africa and the national flower of Ethiopia and St. Helena. There, the plant is called the Nile Lily, a symbol of purity and virtue, which is why these flowers are used in bridal bouquets. The short tuberous rhizomes of Calla lily are the food for wild bores and are therefore also known in South Africa as the pig lily. Calla is accompanied by a legend of how a wealthy Cape Town businessman who arranged a gorgeous wedding for his daughter ordered the bridal bouquet from the best London florist. When the long-awaited precious bouquet was eventually taken off the plane, it turned out to be made from the same pig lillies that are abundant in Cape Town. Although the plant is highly toxic, folk medicine has used the poultice of calla leaves to treat headaches.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), or shoeblackplant, comes from tropical areas of East Asia. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is the national plant of Hawaii and Malaysia. Known as a source of vitamin C, it has been used in folk medicine for centuries as a fever suppressant and cleanser that promotes liver function and regulates blood pressure. Plant blossoms are used for eyebrow dyeing, hair care, shoe polishing, and for food. The tea made of its flowers is called by the Arabs a drink of vivacity and longevity. Tahitian and Hawaiian girls wear the flowers behind their ears, giving men hints – if the flower is behind the left ear, the girl is married or in a relationship, but if the flower is behind the right ear, the girl’s heart is free.
Umbrella papyrus (Cyperus alternifolius) is an aquatic plant that was used to make papyrus on the banks of the Nile 4000 as early as years ago. Papyrus became one of ancient Egypt’s most important export materials, but after the invention of paper, papyrus production stopped. Until recently, the Nile Delta was rich in Umbrella papyrus, but today the plant has become rare there. Papyrus was seen as a symbol of rebirth and was often used in ancient Egypt on capitals and columns as building motifs. Rare Cyperus fuscus also grows naturally in Estonia and is under nature protection.
Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) grows in the swampy areas of North and South Carolina. The main prey animals of this carnivorous plant are insects and arachnids, less frequently frogs. To catch insects, the flytrap emits sweet-scented nectar and, at dusk, releases bluish light. The plant has active traps consisting of two hair-lined leaves. The leaves have three to six hypersensitive hairs on the inside, touching of which makes the leaves to close. When the trap closes, the plant digests the prey for 1-2 weeks, acquiring the necessary substances. The decomposing enzymes of the flytrap are so strong that they can even decompose human skin. One trap can only catch prey 2-3 times before it dies.
Wandering Jew (Tradescantia zebrina) is one of the most popular houseplants originating from tropical America. The plant sap has an irritating effect on the skin, so the hanging Tradescantia zebrina causes a rash to domestic animals grazing in the open meadow and should be handled with care. In Tabasco, Mexico, the plant is used to make an herbal tea called Matali. In addition, Tradescantia zebrina is considered a good humidifier that swallows up disease-causing microorganisms.
Banana (Musa) is the largest herbaceous plant in the world, which comes from the tropics of Southeast Asia. The Banana is considered to be a fruit, but by its type, it is actually a berry. Bananas can be divided into two types according to their use: dessert bananas and plantains. The latter is one of the main food sources in many tropical countries that is cooked, baked and dried. Bananas are made into flour, vinegar, and even alcohol. Banana stems are used to make ceremonial pavilions, and fiber bananas are used to make almost rot free ropes. Banana reached Europe in the 19th century. Bananas are high in potassium and has to some extent also radioactive potassium, but the amount of the latter is so low that it does not pose a risk to humans. The informal term banana equivalent is used – radiation levels are compared to eating one banana.
The name of the Monstera deliciosa derives from the word monster, thanks to its giant leaves. Monstera lianas that grow up to 20 m in length are dangerous to humans because they contain large amounts of toxic substances which, when eaten, cause burns in the mouth, vomiting and, in severe cases, death. Continuous contact with the plant can cause inflammation of the skin. The plant is poisonous, but throughout the ripening period that lasts the entire year, the plant’s toxicity is reduced, and the ripe fruit is edible. The fruits of the Monstera deliciosa have some resemblance of a little pineapple and are well suited for fruit salads and purees.
Philodendron (Philodendron) translates to a tree lover, which refers to a plant’s way of climbing trees with its roots. The plant has a very peculiar adaptability to pollination – it is capable of accelerating the metabolism of fats in the opening inflorescence, which causes the internal temperature of the inflorescence to rise up to 17 degrees higher than the air temperature. It helps to attract the attention of pollinators like beetles in the dark jungle. The plants are used for fishing in Amazonia – the leaves and stalks are fermented, which causes them to be toxic to fish. The bundles of leaves and stalks are thrown into the water, and poisoned paralyzed fish remain floating on the water surface where they can be easily picked up. The ointment from the leaves has been used to treat skin diseases, the long air roots are used as a binder, and the plant is used to make furniture, bags, and baskets.
Fragrant Screwpine (Pandanus tectorius) is the national plant of American Samoa that grows mostly on mangrove fringes and coasts. Fruits and leaves of the fragrant screwpine are used in the preparation of dishes in Southeast Asia. In addition, plant leaves are used to make roofs, floor mats, baskets and skirts, and leaf infusion helps with fever, headaches, and stomach pain. The plants are grown for the protection of homes, also known as living protection fences, due to the sharp edges of its leaves. The fragrant screw pine still plays a very important role in Pacific culture, tradition, and local medicine.
Bearded Tillandsia (Tillandsia usneoides), or Spanish Beard, is an epiphyte that grows on trees and on electric wires – it doesn’t need soil because it has no roots. The silvery color of the plant’s gray leaves is given by the scales covering the leaves, through which the plant absorbs moisture from the air and protects itself from the scorching sun. The seeds of the plant are distributed mainly by birds, which build nests from them. Called the Spanish Beard, it has been used for a variety of purposes: as insulation and packaging material, for making cord and carpets, and for stuffing upholstered furniture. The leaves of the first Ford car were filled with leaves of this plant. US industry uses 5,000 tons of Bearded Tillandsia a year. The plant has health benefits such as lowering blood sugar. Native Americans have used the plant to relieve fever and rheumatic pain. The plant is home to many snakes and bats, and the jumping spider species has been found inside this plant.
The pineapple (Ananas comosus) fruit was brought to Europe by Columbus as a gift to the Queen of Spain from his American expedition in 1494. Pineapple cultivation has long been a sign of high-class status in Europe. Because the plant resembles a cone in appearance, its name in English and Spanish is pineapple. Pineapple is a very delicious fruit thanks to the fruit sugars it contains. In addition to food, pineapple is also used to make alcoholic beverages and vinegar. In Madagascar, burns are also treated with ripe fruits. The leaves of the plant produce fiber, from which very fine silk-like fabric is woven.
Bromelians (Bromeliaceae) come from America. Many grow as epiphytes in tree crowns, receiving nutrients from the air and decaying plant parts. Their leaf rosette accumulates rainwater and leaf debris, which provides a comfortable place to live, feed, or breed for arthropods, small mammals, amphibians, and birds. The largest Bromelian is Puya Raimondii, known as the Queen of the Andes, who can live up to 100 years and grow up to 3 meters in height. This endangered plant is the slowest blossoming plant in the world – its giant blossom of tens of thousands of flowers only blossoms at age 80 and can grow to 10 meters, being the longest inflorescence in the plant kingdom.
The tropical climate zone includes the largest deserts in the world in North and South Africa, Central Australia, Southern North America, and Central South America. The climate is characterized by very high heat and low rainfall, which results in relatively few plants growing there. Temperatures vary from season to season. On a summer day, the temperature can rise to 50 °. Because the air is dry, it cools quickly at night, but not below 20 ° C. In winter, the daytime air temperature is 20 °C, and during the night it can drop below zero.
A humid subtropical forest
The humid subtropical climate occurs on the southeast coast of China, Australia, and the US, and in southern Japan. In the humid sub-tropics, there are hot summers with temperatures of 25 °C and 10-15°C in winter. The wind blowing from the ocean makes the summer particularly rainy and humid, so many evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs grow there.
The equatorial climate occurs in the equatorial region – the Amazon, South America, Central and West Africa, and Southeast Asia. The vegetation is dense, lush, and species-rich. The sun is high on the horizon throughout the year, so the air temperature is high, and rainfall is plentiful. On a day when the sun is intensively warming the earth, the air saturated with humidity rises upwards, and torrential rain begins in the afternoon, in the evening the weather is beautiful and clear again.
Orchids (Orchidaceae) are found on all continents except Antarctica. The smallest orchids are just centimeters tall, with the largest reaching up to 13.5 meters. Orchids look very different – there are climbing, chlorophyll-free, leafless, parasitic, and underground species. Orchids need certain fungi to germinate and animals to reproduce. They are pollinated by insects, birds, frogs, or bats, depending on their appearance and location. There are also self-pollinating species. More than half of the world’s orchids are in danger of extinction and taken under nature protection. The greatest threat to orchids is the loss of habitats due to human activities. It began as early as 1885 when botanist Frederik Sander established the world’s largest orchid business out of greed. Unfortunately, people sent by Sanders to collect orchids massively fell trees to retrieve the plants, causing enormous environmental damage. In Estonia, all 35 species of orchids that can be found here are under nature protection. From 2010 onwards, the annual orchid is selected to attract more attention to these rare plants. Economically the most important orchid is vanilla, which is the second most expensive herb in the world.