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Introduction

Welcome to the Tropical Pyramid. The air is humid, warm, and fragrant, as tropical regions have warm temperatures that are constant from month to month. Please start the tour at the pyramid entrance. This map illustrates the five major tropical biomes.

Follow the directions and read the plant labels to find the plants along the tour. Hint: 1 metre = 1 huge step. Click on the table of contents links to read about each plant as you find them. Please remain on the path and do not pick any plant material.

Moving On

Walk ahead 7m to see large palm-like cycads.

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Cycads

Cycads

Scientific Name: Cycas spp.
Origin: South and Central America, Mexico, Southern U.S., Asia, Africa
Fun Facts:

  • Cycads were around in the Jurassic period when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
  • Leaves are sharp and toxic
  • These plants can live to more than 2,000 years in age
  • Commonly mistaken for ferns or palms, but only distantly related to both
  • Threatened by wealthy collectors and habitat loss
  • Cycads develop cones, which reach temperatures up to 17°C warmer than air temperature when releasing pollen

Moving On

Look below the cycads at the coal, which is formed from ancient tropical plants.

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Coal

Coal

Fun Facts:

  • Coal is made from dead plants that did not fully decompose
  • These dead plants were covered in their swampy habitat and formed peat
  • Millions of years of pressure and heat turned this plant material into coal
  • It takes about 7m of plant material to create one metre of coal
  • Edmonton is home to coal formed 65 million years ago
  • Coal creation is ongoing, but we are using it faster than nature is producing it

Moving On

Walk down the path to the right to see the orchid hut.

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Orchids

Orchid Hut

Scientific Name: family Orchidaceae
Origin: Asia, South America, Central America, North America, Arctic Circle and Patagonia
Fun Facts:

  • Orchids are the largest group of plants on Earth with about 30,000 species; Alberta has 27 native orchid species
  • Orchids use unique shapes and smells to attract pollinators such as hummingbirds, butterflies, or wasps.
  • Only one genus of orchid produces an edible crop: Vanilla
  • Orchids are common in jungles and can be found in every habitat except glaciers.

Moving On

Look up and all around. How many palm trees can you count?

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Palm Tree Quiz

While there are a variety of palm trees around you, there are also some plants that resemble palms, such as the queen sago palm, which is a cycad, and the Australian tree fern.

Which of the following products come from palm trees?

  • Oil
  • Coconuts
  • Dates
  • Sugar
  • All of the above

 View Answer

Moving On

 Walk right down the path 11m and look right to see a plant from South America, Sapodilla.

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Sapodilla

Sapodilla
Scientific Name: Manilkara zapota
Origin: Southern Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean
Fun Facts:

  • Contains a latex called chicle
  • Throughout history chicle has been used for modeling figurines
  • The ancient Mayan civilization chewed chicle as gum
  • In the 1800s, Thomas Adams added sugar and invented modern chewing gum
  • Today workers called “chicleros” still tap wild sapodilla trees and ship the latex to producers of chewing gum

Moving On

 Look up at the forest canopy and notice how much light is let through the trees.

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Jungles and Rainforests

Jungles - Tropical layers

Fun Facts:

  • Many plants in the tropical pyramid are found in rainforests
  • Rainforests have up to five distinct layers
  • In a typical rainforest, very little sun reaches the forest floor. Because of this, few plants will grow there.
  • The Tropical Pyramid has a more open canopy and sunlight hits the ground, similar to a jungle riverbank or tropical savanna.

Rainforest layers

Moving On

Walk 7m down the path
 Look right at the taro (elephant ear plant), another important crop.

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Taro (Elephant Ear Plant)

Elephant Ear Plant
Scientific Name: Colocasia esculenta
Origin: Malaysia
Fun Facts:

  • Also known as "taro" and "dasheen"
  • Leaves and roots (similar to potato) are edible, though slightly toxic if eaten raw
  • A staple crop for millions in tropical regions
  • Starch from roots easily digestible and used in baby food and formula

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Challenge Yourself

Try out the pineapple quiz! 

Pineapple Quiz

Pineapples grow:

  • underground
  • in the arctic
  • on an animal
  • above ground
  • in a large tree
  • on other plants

 View Answer

Take a look at pineapple growing 12m down the path (around the corner on the right).

Moving On

From the pineapple walk 7m down the path.
Look for a banana plant, it has some of the largest leaves in the pyramid.

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Banana Plant

Banana Plant
Scientific Name: Musa basjoo and Ensete glaucum
Origin: Malaysia
Fun Facts:

  • The banana plant is actually not a tree but a very large herb
  • There is no wood in the trunk, just many leaf stalks wrapped tightly together
  • Once a banana plant reaches 9-12 months of age, it will form a large purple or red flower
  • Each blossom in the flower will form a banana
  • The plant will die in 2-3 years once the bananas are formed
  • Bananas are a source of food for many tropical forest animals

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Animal Hunt

Plant names are often based on the animals they resemble, like:

  • bird-of-paradise
  • lobster claw
  • elephant ear
  • elk-horn fern

What other plants can you find that resemble animals in the four pyramids?

Moving On

Turn left before the bridge and head toward the Alexandra palm.
Look up to see the elk-horn fern!

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Elk-Horn Fern

Elk-Horn Fern
Scientific Name: Platycerium hillii
Origin: Australia
Fun Facts:

  • Epiphytic fern (grows on other trees)
  • Fronds (like leaves) resemble an elk’s antlers and hold reproductive spores
  • Non-reproductive fronds brown with age
  • These fronds anchor the fern to the tree and convert dust, leaves and water into nutrients
  • The fern is not a parasite and does not harm the tree

You are now in the center of the Tropical Pyramid. We hope you can find your way out of the jungle!

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Palm Tree Quiz Answer

All of the above! Palms are also used for starch and their leaves have many uses.

 Back to Palm Tree Quiz

 

Pineapple Quiz Answer

Pineapples grow above ground and can grow in the soil or on other plants! 

 Take a look at pineapple growing 12m down the path (around the corner on the right).

 Back to Pineapple Quiz

 

Thank You

Thank you for visiting the Muttart Conservatory and learning more about the Tropical Pyramid. There are more QR Code tours available in each of the pyramids. If you would like to take part in a guided tour of the pyramids, please visit on a Saturday or Sunday when we have scheduled drop-in tours. Please visit the Muttart Conservatory website and Facebook page for up-to-date information on upcoming special events and information about the facility.

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Moving On

Try another tour:

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