Great Brazilian Plants
Brazilian plants are some of the most exciting on the planet!
Currently all eyes on that fantastic city Rio de Janeiro and the Olympic Games being held there in 2016.
I thought that I’d share with you some of my plant discoveries from visiting Brazil in autumn 2015!
The very word ‘Brazil’ conjures up images of vast rain forests. Forests that are dripping with rain and steamy heat, That’s true in part.
But sadly, the rain forest there is diminishing by the minute. This is naturally a cause of great International concern.
Brazil is huge and diverse. And it is this diversity of habitat and climate that results in it having one of the world’s greatest plant collections!
Sitting on the equator and the fifth largest country on the planet it is a massive land mass Amazingly it constitutes almost half of South America!
Many of the plants that grow there would not survive a British winter without protection. The low temperatures would kill them.
Therefore those Brazilian plants we do grow tend to be indoor or conservatory plants.
Epiphytic Brazilian plants
Orchids and epiphytes abound in countless quantities. Many of these are very suitable for our homes.
Some are terrestrial Brazilian plants but most grow as true epiphytes on trees. They are found on trunks and branches of all manner of exotic tree species.
Bromeliad and Tillandsia air plants are everywhere! Often they are growing in such profusion that branches are brought down by their weight.
These are great plants for out bathrooms and kitchens. Here they get the higher humidity that helps them flourish.
Climbing Brazilian plants
Climbing Brazilian plants clamber up and smother many trees. But somehow they cope and just reach higher for the light.
Bougainvillea and passion flower are to be found growing wild in Brazil. They of course have now found their way around the globe and into many a garden.
Philodendron and Devil’s Ivy are common place and climb the trunks of most trees.
Not satisfied with scrambling along the forest floor, these evergreens reach hundreds of feet up into the very top of trees.
Surprisingly, they are extremely good and easy to please as indoor house plants for us. Fortunately in our homes their vigour there is much reduced!
Water plants grow so profusely that many choke waterways.
The water hyacinth is the biggest culprit. Where it has been carelessly introduced into the wild in other countries it poses a massive threat to the native fauna and flora. I’ve seen this in Africa and India.
On the other hand the giant water lily is far less of a threat and a plant that is well worth seeing!
There is a fine specimen happily growing in the University of Bristol Botanic Garden’s greenhouse. The leaves of this giant water lily can grow to over 2.5 metre diameter! They are said to support the weight of a toddler but only if their weight is well spread out!
More familiar lilies will be seen in slow moving or still water. Unlike the hardy ones that we grow in our ponds in Britain, the flowers of the Brazilians water lilies are held well clear of the water.
Of the many tree species seen in Brazil, few are familiar to us.
However, many do produce spectacularly coloured blooms.
It’s easy to spot bright yellow or pink flowered trumpet trees [Tabebuia] from a mile away! This is a truly spectacular tree!
Between these are a remarkable range of palm trees.
Those palms are made all the more spectacular when ‘decorated’ with exotic looking hyacinth macaws! This species – once seriously threaten with extinction can be seen in the Pantanal in Mato Grosso. I can strongly recommend a visit there to anyone who loves nature!
More Exotic Brazilian Plants
Other so called ‘exotic’ Brazilian plants that are more familiar are of course banana and bamboo.
With all that heat and moisture there both grow at a breath-taking pace!
Whilst I didn’t see it growing in the wild, the Angel’s Trumpet plant Brugmansia must be one of the most spectacular of all flowering shrubs! Its long blooms are strongly and pleasantly scented. I’ve found that this plant can readily be grown in a container outside in Britain. But I’ve also found that Brugmansia will not tolerate frost. And so it needs the shelter of a frost free well-lit place to over winter.
Rio de Janeiro’s Botanic Garden
I’ve only scratched the surface of Brazilian plants and Brazil’s huge flora. If you get the chance to go I’d strongly recommend it.
The very mature botanic garden in Rio is well worth a visit. Its care is perhaps not up to the finest botanic gardens that Europe has to offer. Nevertheless, when I visited there were encouraging signs of recent investment.
It has one of the very best cacti and succulent plant collections that I’ve seen anywhere in the world. Brazil has a great climate and so it’s not at all surprising to find this newly planted display outside.
Do you recognise and grow any of these plants in your home or garden?
You may be interested to hear about more plants that I saw growing wild in Brazil here in a blog that I’ve called Houseplants in the Forest.