PUERTO RICO - Plant and animal life
Officially Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Spanish Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico self-governing island commonwealth of the West Indies, associated with the United States. The easternmost island of the Greater Antilles chain, it lies approximately 50 miles (80 km) east of the Dominican Republic, 40 miles (65 km) west of the Virgin Islands, and 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of the U.S. state of Florida. It is situated in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, its northern shore facing the Atlantic Ocean.
Plant life is abundant and varied. Tropical rainforests cover parts of the north side of theisland, and thorn and scrub vegetation predominates on the drier south side. Most of the island's original vegetation was removed through centuries of agricultural exploitation, particularly during the first two decades of the 20th century, when farm settlers and plantation workers destroyed large tracts of coastal forest and used the lumber for railroad ties and fuel. Although some woodlands have been replanted since the mid-20th century, introduced varieties of trees, shrubs, and grasses now predominate.
The scarlet- and orange-flowered royal poinciana, or flamboyant (Delonix regia), and the African tulip tree (Spathodea campanulata) are among the flowering trees that dot the mountains with patches of vivid colour against a lush green background. The Caribbean National Forest in the Sierra de Luquillo southeast of San Juan preserves rare species of orchids and the small green Puerto Rican parrot, an endangered species. Puerto Rico has more than 200 species of birds, but land animals are mostly confined to nonpoisonous snakes, lizards, mongooses, and the coquí (Eleutherodactylis portoricensis), a frog whose name is onomatopoeic with its call (“co-kee!”) and which has become a kind of national mascot. Numerous varieties of fish abound in the surrounding waters, but edible and inedible species mingle together, limiting commercial fishing there.