Peru is home to three distinct regions: the Andes Mountains, the coastal areas and the Amazon. Resting on the Amazon River, the city of Iquitos can be found in the heart of the Peruvian rainforest's Amazonas region. Surrounded by rivers and dense tropical rainforest, Iquitos is virtually unreachable by ground transportation. With no roads connecting it to other cities, people wanting to travel to and from Iquitos primarily travel by boat or plane.
When talking about the great rainforests of the world, the Peruvian Rainforest is often overlooked. As part of the Amazon basin, the Peruvian Rainforest covers more than half of the country. The most populated city in the region, Iquitos, is home to thousands of animals and plants that are not found anywhere else on Earth. With its rich, natural beauty and interesting flora and fauna, the tropical rainforest of Peru is worthy of recognition.
Known as one of the Earth's most biologically diverse regions, the Peruvian rainforest makes up approximately 60 percent of the country and is divided between lowland areas that are more than 3,000 feet above sea level and highland areas that extend into the east side of the Andes Mountains. The highlands of the rainforest are thought to be as high as 12,500 feet above sea level in some areas. Within this region, Iquitos, the largest city in the Peruvian rainforest, can be found. Boasting a population of nearly 500,000 people, Iquitos is considered to be the largest isolated city in the world.
The rainforest surrounding Iquitos is home to numerous species of birds, animals and plants. Some plants found exclusively in the Peruvian rainforest include the camu-camu bush, the mapacho plant and the Genipa Americana tree, better known as huito. Often found close to the Andes Mountains, mapacho leaves are known grow into tall stalks that produce pink and white flowers. Camu-camu is a fruit-producing bush that produces fruit only slightly larger than the average grape. The huito is a small tree with oblong leaves and white, yellow and red flowers. Its berrylike fruit is often used to make jams, teas and ice cream.
Inhabitants of Iquitos have utilized the plants of the rainforest for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Belonging to the same family as nightshade and potatoes, mapacho is also known as sacred tobacco to shamans in the Amazon. Although mapacho is sometimes used as a recreational drug, it is primarily used in ceremonies and tribal rituals. When its leaves are crushed and boiled, mapacho is used to cleanse wounds and treat pulmonary ailments. The bark of the chuchuhuasi tree, a native tree of western Amazonia, is believed to cure stomachaches, diarrhea and arthritis. It also works as a pain reliever and muscle relaxant and is thought to have potential in treating the symptoms of chronic disorders such as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. While its fruits are believed to contain more vitamin C than any other plant in the world, camu-camu is also known to strengthen the immune system and promote skin and eye health.
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