|Strangler Fig Tree
The strangler fig tree (species: Ficus) is a fruit bearing tree that depends on an unusual symbiotic relationship with Amazon rain forest animals and trees to survive. Monkeys, macaws, bats, and other animals who eat the tree's sweet fruit distribute the strangler fig's seeds throughout the canopy by defecating in the tree tops. Once a seed germinates in the high canopy, a single root grows down to floor of the forest and swells to a large diameter. This root provides the first secure anchor to the host tree and life line to the nutrient rich soil and water below. More roots grow downward and wrap around the host tree's trunk. Meanwhile, strangler fig branches and leaves begin to grow skyward, gradually overshadowing the host tree. In a period of 200 years, the strangler fig will effectively cut off all vital water, sunlight, and nutrient sources of the host tree with its constricting weave of roots and branches. The strangler fig will eventually kill the host tree by "strangulation," and win the battle for survival.
|Brazil Nut Tree
Tree Often the home of harpy eagles, Brazil nut trees (Bertholletia excelsa) are tall evergreens trees that are found in the Amazon forest. Sometimes called para nut trees, these evergreens have long, straight trunks that can grow as tall as 150 feet (46 m). Its leaves are leathery and green and can measure 15 inches (38 cm) long by 6 inches (15 cm) wide. The Brazil nut tree produces round, woody fruits. Within the tough shells of the fruit are usually 12 to 24 seeds (nuts). The fruits, which are ripe from November to June, have been used by humans in a variety of ways. The Brazil nut oils are often used in cooking and to make soap.
Named after a word meaning "food of the gods," the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) is a wide-branched evergreen that is frequently cultivated for its seeds to make cocoa and chocolate products. This tropical evergreen can reach heights up to 25 feet (7.7 m) and bears large, yellow-red fruits. These hard-shelled fruits develop from small, reddish flowers that grow on the tree. One cacao fruit holds as many as 60 seeds (beans).
Ripe cacao seeds are easily identified by shaking the fruit. If the shaking produces a rattling noise, the fruit is ready to be picked. Before extracting the seeds, cacao cultivators cut the fruit open and let the seeds ferment for a period. Fermentation makes the beans easier to separate from the shell. Once the seeds are isolated, they are dried in the sun or in a drying shed. The beans are then ready to processed into various products.
To make cocoa or chocolate, cacao beans are ground into a paste and mixed with sugar and starch. Fat content differentiates the two products; fat is left in chocolate, while mostly extracted from cocoa. Another product made from the cacao bean is cacao butter, or the oil of theobroma, which used in cosmetic products and coatings for pills.
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