Rain Forest Plants Activity & Worksheet
For centuries, people have used folk remedies to treat colds, heal wounds, aid sleep, and help with many other common problems. These remedies might come from the leaf of a certain plant that grows by a stream or the bark from a common tree. Recently, scientists have found that many of these ancient cures do indeed work. Researchers are looking for other plants that can be used to treat some of our most serious diseases.
One of the best places to look for plants that can be used as medicines is the rain forest. In the rain forest are more kinds of plants and animals than any other place in the world.
One plant found in tropical rain forests is an evergreen known as the cinchona tree. The bark of this tree has been used for centuries to prevent malaria, a serious disease that affects many people in warm, damp regions around the world. In the past, people boiled the bark to make a tea that was used as medicine. Today, cinchona trees are grown in Indonesia, India, and the Philippine Islands, and their bark is harvested to make quinine, a medicine used to treat malaria. Although quinine can now be made in laboratories, the natural product is sometimes more effective.
WORKSHEET & Sample PDF Activity
Sample PDF Activity
Knowing that many medicines are made in laboratories, you might wonder why plants from the rain forest are important. There are many reasons. For one, like quinine, some drugs that come from plants work better than the same drug made in a laboratory. Second, not all drugs that come from the rain forest have yet been made in laboratories. Third, a large number of folk medicines are still unknown to modern medicine. Fourth, and most important, many plants from the rain forest live nowhere else. If we allow the rain forest to be destroyed, these plants will be lost forever. Just as many animals are in danger of becoming extinct, many plants face the same danger.
There is another reason to save the rain forest. The rain forest is home to people who live much as they have for hundreds of years. When the rain forest is destroyed in order to grow crops and graze cattle, the culture of these people is also destroyed. Just as Native Americans lost their land, their culture, and often their lives, people of the rain forest could also be destroyed. One way to help them survive is to employ them to find and collect plants. In this way, the bounty of the forest can be used to improve our lives as well as the lives of the people who live there.
Rain Forest Plants Worksheet
- Why is the rain forest a good place to look for plants that might be used as medicines?
- Large numbers of drug companies make medicines. Why do we need plants from the rain forest?
- How is bark from the cinchona tree used?
- Suggest some ways we can obtain rain forest plants to use for making medicines without destroying the rain forest.
- Research other plants of the rain forest that can be used to make medicines. Make a list of the ones you discover, or write in more detail about the one that interests you the most.
Rain Forest Plants Answer Key
- More kinds of plants live there than anywhere else.
- Some drugs that come from plants work better than the same drugs made in a laboratory. Not all drugs that come from the rain forest have yet been made in labs. Many plants from the rain forest live nowhere else. If the rain forest is destroyed, these plants will be lost forever.
- The bark is used to make a drug to treat malaria.
- Answers will vary but should include some ideas for replanting species, using parts of plants without destroying the whole plant, and so on.
- Answers will vary. One plant is the rosy periwinkle used in the treatment of leukemia.