Land and Resources, Plant and Animal Life
species of flowering plants, Nepenthes rajah, Imperata cylindrica, coarse grass, king cobras
Malaysia has abundant plant life in its coastal mangrove forests; in lowland tropical forests; and, at elevations over 1,200 m (3,900 ft), in mossy or montane oak forests. The country harbors an estimated 8,000 species of flowering plants, including 2,500 species of trees. The lowland forests contain some of the most important commercial timber species, including mahogany and teak. These trees often attain heights of more than 50 m (160 ft) and grow to about 3 m (about 10 ft) in circumference. Where forested areas are cleared, the ground is rapidly taken over by a coarse grass called Imperata cylindrica, an invasive weed that displaces other vegetation. The world’s largest flower, the rafflesia, grows in East Malaysia. Sabah contains the largest of the pitcher plants, the Nepenthes rajah, which can hold up to 2 liters (0.5 gallon) of water. Approximately one-quarter of the land in Malaysia is cultivated or used for plantation agriculture.
Like other tropical forests, Malaysia’s forests include an enormous variety of animal life. Large mammals include Asian elephants; tigers; sun bears; tapirs; several species of deer; and rhinoceroses, which are endangered. Malaysia’s primates include the endangered orangutans and three species of protected gibbons. Other animals include numerous birds (about 650 species of birds exist in Peninsular Malaysia alone); more than 100 species of snakes, including king cobras and pythons; and many amphibians, including crocodiles and 80 species of lizards. Malaysia is renowned for its huge insect population, including many species of butterflies and moths. Some insects, including mosquitoes, hornets, red ants, scorpions, and certain spiders, can be harmful to people.
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