Physical Geography, Plant and Animal Life
gorriones, Las Cabezas, island of Culebra, Yunque, tropical shrubs
Most of Puerto Ricoís original forests were logged by the beginning of the 20th century. The government began a replanting effort in the 1930s. A commercial reforestation program has also created a modest commercial reserve of tropical hardwoods, including mahogany, ebony, laurel, and satinwood. Puerto Rico contains thousands of species of tropical shrubs and trees, including colorful bougainvilleas, poinsettias, and Sierra palms. There are giant coconut palms, mangroves, and bamboo trees. Orchids and giant ferns grow in the rain forest of El Yunque. Brilliantly hued poinciana trees border most of the older rural roads, lending the flaming red color of their blossoms to the landscape in June.
Puerto Rico has very little wildlife and few birds. The mongoose, introduced to control rats on the sugar plantations, is fairly abundant. There are nightingales and sparrow-like birds called gorriones. The coqui, a tiny tree frog that sings at night like a bird, leads many visitors to suppose that the island is filled with nightingales. In the waters surrounding Puerto Rico there are a number of different game fish, including tuna, blue marlin, bonefish, and amberjack.
Both the federal and commonwealth governments have stepped up efforts to preserve the islandís animal and plant life. Reserves of special note include the Caribbean National Forest, known as El Yunque, a tropical rain forest in the Sierra de Luquillo Mountains; Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve on the northeast coast; and the Carite Forest Reserve in the southeast. On the southwest tip of the island, La Parguera Natural Reserve has a phosphorescent bay that glows at night because of tiny sea creatures that give off a green light when their bodies are disturbed. The island of Culebra is home to the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge.
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