Tropical Rainforest Resources
Edible Rainforest Plants

Allspice: (Pimenta dioica)

Berries-- shaped like peppercorns-- of an evergreen tree which can grow up to 100' in height in height in  the Latin American Rainforest. 

The small, aromatic fruits have a subtle flavor like a mixture of clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg, hence the name "allspice."

Banana: (Musa paradisiaca)

This is the most common Musa, but there are 21 species and subspecies which are edible. Probably native to tropical Asia, specifically the Malay region. Widely cultivated in the tropics.

Black Pepper: (Piper nigrum)

A vine native to the East Indies. Black pepper is made by drying the entire fruit (peppercorn) and white pepper is produced by first hulling the fruit, then grinding. Today, the bulk is produced in India and Indonesia. The U.S.A is the chief importer.

Caspicum annum: Cayenne pepper, sweet pepper, paprika, and jalapenos are just four of the many cultivars of this plant. Native to the American tropics and subtropics, grown also in temperate regions.

Cardamom: (Elleteria cardamom)

Native to India, the third most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla.

Cashews: (Anarcardium occidental)

Originally from Tropical America, a valuable nut and vitamin rich fruit from the tree.

Chocolate/Cocoa: (Theobroma cacao)

Native to lowland tropical America, probably first domesticated in Mexico. Chocolate and cocoa are made from the dried, ground seeds or "beans" of this small tree. Commercially grown primarily throughout the West African tropics.

Cinnamon: (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)

Bark of a small tree indigenous to Ceylon and India.

Citrus: (Citrus sp.)

Citrus fruits re among the most prized fruits. Over 55 million tons are consumed annually: oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, tangerines, and others. Evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia; now grown throughout the world. The largest citrus is the Pummelo.

Cloves: (Eugenia caryophylus)

The aromatic flower buds are from a tropical evergreen tree native to the Southeast Asian Mollucas, now grown in Zanzibar, Madagascar, and Indonesia. 

Coconut: (Cocos nucifera)

Probably originated in the Indo-Pacific region. Now found on virtually every tropical shore but not in the rainforests themselves. Used for fruit, oils, and fibers. 

Coffee: (Coffea arabica and others)

Believed to be native to North East Africa. Coffee is made from the seed or "bean" of this small tree or shrub. Produced throughout the tropics.

Cola: (Cola nitida)

Used in soft drinks. Native to West Africa. Same family as Cacao. Jamaican trees provide much of U.S. supply.

Ginger: (Zingiber officinale)

Native to tropical Asia; cultivated throughout the tropics. Root tubers used as a spice and in perfumes. 

Mango: (Magnifera indica)

Originally from India, this tasty fruit is now a valuable export in many parts of the tropics. 

Mung Bean: (Vigna radiata)

Native to India. Has great potential as a food. Makes a nutritious and versatile flour.

Nutmeg: (Myristica fragrans)

Seeds of a tree from the Southeast Asian Mollucan Islands. Mace is another spice derived from nutmeg.

Peanut: (Arachis Hypogaea)

Probably native to South America. Grown widely in tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions of the world. Important as a source of protein and oils. Not a "nut," but a bean.

Pineapple: (Ananas comosus)

Thought to have been domesticated by the Guarani of Brazil and Paraguay during the Pre-Columbian Era. Produced widely in the tropics and subtropics. 

Sesame: (Sesamum indicum)

An ancient oil seed plant originally from Africa. Now commercially grown primarily in Southeast Asia. Highly nutritious.

Squash/ Cucumber: (Curbita sp.) 

Many native to the American tropics. Cultivated in tropical and subtropical America and temperate zones.

Turmeric: (Curcum longa)

Native to the Southeast Orient and cultivated in India. Related to ginger. Dried, ground rhizomes produce the spice. 


Of the legume family, this small tree is thought to have originated in India. Now grown throughout the tropics. Used as a table fruit, drink, preserves, and also has medicinal properties.

Vanilla: (Vanilla planifolia and others)

Indigenous to tropical America, this is the most commercially important of all the 35,000 species of orchid. Made from the dried seeds of the rainforest orchid tree. Commercially grown, especially in Madagascar.

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