In the richness of biodiversity of the Amazon basin, thousands of different species of trees make up the astonishingly varied body of the forest. For the people who call the Amazon home, certain key trees find their way into daily use and daily conversation as stand-outs in the vast sea of organisms. Whether for medicine, for timber, or for any one of countless other uses, these trees are woven into the fabric of mythic lore and quotidian utility and represent some of the forest's dearest treasures.
But it is the very usefulness of these species that so often places them at risk, with the constant human appetite for raw materials often outpacing the ability of wild tree populations to regenerate themselves. In many cases the populations are so ravaged that the genetic diversity of a species can be threatened. All too many Amazonian trees have been included on the IUCN Red List, and other measures for imperilled organisms.
Stemming from Camino Verde's commitment to protecting the biodiversity of the Amazon, every year we select at least one of the Amazon's prized and over-exploited tree species for reforestation. These Heritage Tree Species are those trees that are in direct danger of genetic degradation or extinction. Some of the species are familiar--mahogany for example--and others are practically unknown outside of the region. For a tree to be recognized as a Heritage Tree Species, we plant at least 50 seedlings, and in most cases many more, to create a relatively diverse genetic base in alignment with our vision of a Living Seed Bank of jungle trees.
So far, the Heritage Tree Species are the following:
mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) Spanish cedar (Cedrela odorata) high Spanish cedar (Cedrela fissilis) teak (Tectona grandis)--exotic chihuahuaco/ironwood (Dipteryx macrantha) copaiba (Copaifera sp.) pau d'arco (Tabebuia serratifolia) sangre de grado (Croton sp.) azúcar huayo (Hymenaea sp.) copoazú (Theobroma grandiflora)
For the coming planting season of 2010, we plan to add a wonderful tree to this list: moena alcanforada (Ocotea sp.). Check back for more Heritage Species in the future.