Caatinga (white forest) refers to the generally stunted, somewhat sparse, and often thorny vegetation of the dry interior of northeastern Brazil. Trees, leafless for long periods and able to resist drought, also are characteristic, particularly in the basin of the São Francisco River. Dominant species are leguminous trees, particularly catingueiras (Caesalpinia), juremas (Mimosa), and joazeiros (Zizyphus joaseiro), members of the Euphorbiaceae (spurge) family, and Bombacaceae (a family of tropical trees with palmate leaves and large, dry or fleshy fruit).
Undergrowth consists of thickets, bromeliads (plants with basal, often spiny leaves), and innumerable cacti, among which is the xiquexique (Cereus gounellei), the complicated intertwinings of which cover the soil. Where more water is available, caatinga species may grow 30 feet high and form impenetrable thickets.
These parklike forests, sometimes very dense but interspersed with savanna, occupy vast expanses from the border of the Amazonian rain forest to the marshes of the upper Paraguay River. The typical landscape is a grassland strewn with smaller trees. In effect, it includes a mosaic of associations, from hygrophilous (living or growing in moist places) to xerophilous (adapted to dry conditions) forests and even desert. Notable is the araucaria, or Paraná pine (Araucaria angustifolia), forest region, between the Paraná River and the Atlantic Ocean, stretching from Curitiba, Braz., to northern Argentina. Araucarias (which are not true pines) dominate a dense forest of numerous species including hardwoods, yellowwood (Podocarpus), and the South American holly (Ilex paraguariensis), from which the beverage maté is made.
Thickets of small trees and shrubs, often thorny, among which species of Prosopis, Acacia, and Mimosa predominate, cover regions that alternate between dry and relatively wet seasons; these regions particularly include coastal Venezuela, northeastern Colombia, southwestern Ecuador, and northern Peru.
In Peru this association borders the coastal desert, which extends from northern Peru to northern Chile, with a width of 50 to 100 miles. Only a few shrubs and some terrestrial (as distinct from epiphytic) bromeliads grow in this area, which becomes greener only in the Andean foothills, where cacti and other xerophytic plants are found, and along the valleys of rivers flowing down from the Andes
In some areas of Peru, winter mists bring humidity, which causes a specialized type of vegetation, lomas (a mix of grasses and other herbaceous species), to grow for a short period of time. Britannica "South America" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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