Throughout our travels, our Brazilian friends continue to pluck random fruit from wild trees and encourage us to eat them. The first was a round yellow fruit with red insides and dark seeds. It's called goiba (Guayaba guayaba) and it's found on a type of myrtaceae tree. We both thought it tasted pretty foul.
Later we tried inga fruit (Inga uruguyensis) of the leguminosae family, which required peeling back the green skin and sucking on the fuzzy white coating of the fruit until it pulled free of the hard green seeds inside. This one Jeff liked better, but Julie wasn't wowed. It was similar to eating bland furballs.
Our hosts' knowledge of these fruits and other plants demonstrate how closely
||Even plants that at first do not appear to benefit humans still contribute to the health of the ecosystems|
integrated flora is with the Brazilian way of life and its history. As a matter of fact, the country of Brazil is named after a plant: the Paubrasil tree, also of the leguminosae family.
While taking a boat cruise through the Refugio da Ilha, the guide pointed out the plant Pfaffia, from the Amaranthaceae family, has medicinal properties similar to that of ginseng, which is used in traditional Brazilian medicines. And over the next few days we also learn about a plant whose leaves are used to file women's nails (Curatella Americana – Dilleniaceae), vines from the Araceae family that were used by Brazilian Indians for rope, and an Amazonian berry (guarná) that provides the flavor for one of Brazil's most popular soft drinks.
And even plants that at first do not appear to benefit humans, still contribute to the health of the ecosystems, and thereby provide a service for people. For example, the dense floating water-vegetation – called aquape (Eichornia azurea and Eichornia eranipes) – that fill the rivers and natural canals we try to navigate by boat, provide shelter and food for species such as egrets, tapirs, caiman, fish and water birds.
Thanks to the botanical and cultural knowledge of our hosts, we discover that the plant life of this region turns out not only to be plentiful and beautiful, but incredibly practical as well.
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