A Guide to the Native Trees of Sri Lanka

Ever wondered about the diverse world of Sri Lanka’s native trees? This island nation is home to approximately 800 unique tree species, each with its own ecological and cultural importance.

Our guide will not only introduce you to these fascinating trees but also shed light on their habitats, threats they face, and conservation efforts to protect them. Get ready for a virtual adventure into the lush forests of Sri Lanka!

Key Takeaways

  • Sri Lanka is home to approximately 800 unique native tree species, each with its own ecological and cultural significance.
  • Native trees in Sri Lanka play a crucial role in biodiversity conservation by providing homes for different animals and plants.
  • These trees also provide important ecosystem services such as air filtration, water purification, and carbon sequestration.
  • Native trees hold great cultural significance in Sri Lanka’s traditions, rituals, and religions.

Importance of Native Trees

Native trees in Sri Lanka play a vital role in biodiversity conservation, provide essential ecosystem services, and hold significant cultural significance.

Biodiversity conservation

Sri Lanka’s trees are key to saving diverse life. These trees provide homes for a lot of different animals and plants. The Java Fig tree and the Legume tree are two important ones.

They are home to many insects, birds, and small mammals. Each insect, bird or mammal uses the tree in its own way. Some live in it, some eat from it while others use it as shelter.

This makes each tree like a city full of life! We can see this amazing world if we just look closely at any tree! Biodiversity conservation is all about protecting this beautiful web of life that is around us every day.

Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services are the benefits that we get from nature. In Sri Lanka, native trees play a crucial role in providing these services. They help to maintain biodiversity by providing habitats for various species of plants and animals.

These trees also contribute to the overall health of the environment by filtering the air we breathe and purifying water sources.

Additionally, native trees provide important cultural significance to the people of Sri Lanka. They have been used for centuries in traditional medicine, rituals, and ceremonies. Some trees even hold religious or spiritual value.

When you explore Sri Lanka’s forests and natural areas, you’ll witness firsthand how native trees support the ecosystem around them. From shade and shelter for wildlife to carbon sequestration and soil conservation, these valuable services ensure a sustainable and balanced environment.

Cultural significance

Sri Lanka’s native trees hold great cultural significance for the people of the country. They are deeply intertwined with religious practices, folklore, and traditions that have been passed down through generations.

One notable example is the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Tree, believed to be the oldest human-planted tree in the world and revered by Buddhists as it is said to have grown from a cutting of the Bodhi Tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment.

Another culturally significant tree is the Java Fig tree, which holds sacred value among Hindus and is associated with fertility and prosperity. The use of indigenous trees in traditional ceremonies, rituals, crafts, and even medicine highlights their importance in Sri Lankan culture.

Common Native Trees in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, you can find a variety of common native trees such as the Java Fig tree, the Legume tree, and various shrubs.

Java Fig tree

One of the common native trees you’ll find in Sri Lanka is the Java Fig tree. This tree belongs to the Moraceae family and is known for its large, heart-shaped leaves and spreading canopy.

With its strong branches and extensive root system, it provides shade and stability to the surrounding environment. The Java Fig tree is also important culturally as it has religious significance and is often found near temples or sacred sites.

Its fruits are a favorite among wildlife, attracting birds and various animals. So next time you’re exploring Sri Lanka’s forests, keep an eye out for this magnificent tree species!

Legume tree

One of the common native trees in Sri Lanka is the Legume tree. This tree belongs to the family Fabaceae and is known for its nitrogen-fixing ability, which helps improve soil fertility.

The Legume tree has compound leaves with small leaflets, giving it a feathery appearance. Its flowers are usually bright and attractive, attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies.

It produces long pods that contain seeds, providing a food source for wildlife. The wood of the Legume tree is durable and used for various purposes like construction and furniture making.

This versatile tree can be found in different parts of Sri Lanka, including rainforests, lowland forests, and even home gardens.

Habitat and Distribution of Native Trees

Native trees in Sri Lanka can be found in various habitats, including rainforests, lowland forests, montane forests, and coastal areas. Each habitat provides a unique environment for these trees to thrive.

Want to know more about the fascinating native tree species in Sri Lanka? Keep reading!


Sri Lanka is home to lush rainforests that are teeming with life. These dense forests are filled with a diverse range of trees, plants, and wildlife. With their tall canopies and abundant rainfall, rainforests provide a unique habitat for many endemic species found only in Sri Lanka.

One such example is the Java Fig tree, which is native to these rainforest ecosystems. These trees play a crucial role in maintaining biodiversity and supporting the ecosystem by providing habitat for various animals and insects.

The rainforests of Sri Lanka are truly a sight to behold for adventure travelers who want to immerse themselves in nature’s beauty and explore the rich flora and fauna it has to offer.

Lowland forests

Welcome to the beautiful lowland forests of Sri Lanka! These lush and diverse ecosystems are home to a wide variety of native trees that you won’t want to miss. Covering large areas of the country, these forests are an important part of Sri Lanka’s natural heritage.

In these lowland forests, you’ll come across tree species like the Java Fig tree and the Legume tree. These trees not only provide shade and beauty but also play a vital role in supporting biodiversity.

With their dense canopies and rich undergrowth, these forests provide habitats for numerous plant and animal species.

Exploring the lowland forests will give you a chance to witness firsthand how these trees contribute to our ecosystem. They help regulate the climate by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, ensuring we have fresh air to breathe.

Additionally, they act as natural filters, purifying water sources that flow through their roots.

Montane forests

Montane forests are high-altitude forests found in the mountains of Sri Lanka. These unique ecosystems are home to a variety of native tree species that have adapted to survive in cool temperatures and strong winds.

Some common trees found in montane forests include the Horton Plains ironwood and the Rhododendron arboreum. These forests not only provide habitat for numerous plant and animal species but also play a crucial role in maintaining the water cycle by capturing moisture from passing clouds.

Adventure travelers can explore these enchanting montane forests while trekking through national parks like Horton Plains National Park, where they can witness breathtaking views and experience the beauty of Sri Lanka’s native trees firsthand.

Coastal areas

Sri Lanka’s coastal areas are home to a variety of native trees that have adapted to survive in the unique conditions found near the ocean. These trees play an important role in protecting and stabilizing coastal ecosystems, as well as providing habitat for many species of plants and animals.

Some common tree species found in coastal areas include mangroves, such as the Mangrove Apple and Black Mangrove, which help prevent erosion and provide nursery grounds for fish. Other notable trees are the Sea Hibiscus and Beach Ironwood, which can tolerate salt spray and high winds.

These trees not only add beauty to the coastline but also contribute to the overall biodiversity of Sri Lanka’s natural environment.

Threats to Native Trees

Deforestation, illegal logging, invasive species, and climate change pose significant threats to the native trees of Sri Lanka.


Deforestation is a big problem in Sri Lanka. It’s the cutting down of trees in large areas, and it’s causing a lot of harm to the environment. When trees are cut down, it disrupts the natural balance of ecosystems, which can lead to loss of biodiversity and habitat destruction for many animals.

Additionally, deforestation also affects the climate because trees absorb carbon dioxide, a harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Without these trees, there’s more CO2 in the air which can worsen climate change.

One important fact about deforestation in Sri Lanka is that it has led to soil erosion and landslides. The roots of trees hold the soil together and when they’re gone, heavy rains can cause the land to slide downhill.

This is dangerous for people living nearby as their homes may be destroyed or damaged.

Another important fact is that deforestation threatens indigenous tree species found only in Sri Lanka. Some native tree species are being cut down without considering their importance to the local ecosystem or their cultural significance within traditional practices.

Illegal logging

Illegal logging poses a significant threat to the native trees of Sri Lanka. It involves cutting down trees without permission or in violation of regulations. This activity not only causes deforestation but also disrupts the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

Illegal logging contributes to habitat loss, leading to the decline of various plant and animal species. Moreover, it negatively impacts local communities who rely on forests for their livelihoods and cultural practices.

Efforts to combat illegal logging include stricter enforcement of regulations and promoting sustainable forestry practices. By raising awareness about this issue, we can help protect Sri Lanka’s rich biodiversity and ensure the preservation of its native trees for future generations.

Invasive species

Invasive species are a big threat to native trees in Sri Lanka. These are plants, animals, or insects that come from other places and start spreading rapidly. They can harm the local ecosystem by crowding out native plant species and disrupting natural habitats.

For example, the water hyacinth is an invasive aquatic plant that can block waterways and affect the growth of native plants. Invasive species can also damage the economy by affecting agriculture and forestry.

It’s important to be aware of these invaders and take action to control their spread in order to protect Sri Lanka’s native trees and preserve its biodiversity.

Climate change

Climate change is a significant threat to the native trees of Sri Lanka. Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns can negatively impact their growth and survival. In addition, extreme weather events like droughts, floods, and storms become more frequent due to climate change, further endangering these trees.

For example, studies have shown that some tree species in Sri Lanka are already experiencing changes in their flowering and fruiting patterns as a result of climate change. This disruption can have cascading effects on the ecosystems that rely on these trees for food and shelter.

Efforts to mitigate climate change through reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable practices are crucial for the long-term conservation of native trees in Sri Lanka.

Conservation Efforts and Benefits

Conservation efforts in Sri Lanka include the establishment of protected areas, reforestation initiatives, and awareness campaigns to promote the importance of native trees. These efforts not only help preserve biodiversity but also provide economic benefits through sustainable timber production and ecotourism opportunities.

Protected areas

Sri Lanka has several protected areas that are home to a variety of native trees. These areas play a crucial role in conserving biodiversity and preserving the natural habitats of these trees.

Some of the well-known protected areas include national parks like Yala, Wilpattu, and Horton Plains. These parks provide opportunities for adventure travelers to explore and appreciate the beauty of Sri Lanka’s native flora while also supporting conservation efforts.

By visiting these protected areas, you can witness firsthand the importance of preserving these precious ecosystems and contribute to their long-term sustainability.

Reforestation initiatives

Reforestation initiatives in Sri Lanka are playing a crucial role in preserving and restoring the country’s native trees. Here are some key facts about these efforts:

  1. Over the years, Sri Lanka has witnessed significant deforestation due to various factors, including human activities and natural disasters.
  2. To counteract this loss, several reforestation initiatives have been launched across the country.
  3. The Forest Department of Sri Lanka is actively involved in implementing reforestation projects to restore degraded forest areas.
  4. Reforestation efforts focus on planting native tree species that are well-suited to the local environment and can thrive in different ecological zones.
  5. By planting these native trees, the aim is to increase biodiversity, restore ecosystem services, and create healthy habitats for wildlife.
  6. Through partnerships with local communities and organizations, reforestation initiatives also provide economic opportunities and raise awareness about the importance of conserving native trees.
  7. Some of the common tree species targeted for reforestation include Mahogany, Teak, Jackwood, Ebony, and Sandalwood.
  8. These initiatives not only contribute to mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide but also help to prevent soil erosion and maintain water resources.
  9. Reforested areas serve as important sanctuaries for endemic plant and animal species, contributing to the overall conservation of Sri Lanka’s biodiversity.
  10. Adventure travelers visiting Sri Lanka can get involved in these reforestation initiatives by participating in tree planting activities or supporting local organizations dedicated to restoring native forests.

Awareness campaigns

Awareness campaigns play a crucial role in educating people about the importance of native trees in Sri Lanka. These campaigns aim to raise awareness about the threats facing these trees, such as deforestation and illegal logging.

Through educational programs, workshops, and social media outreach, adventure travelers can learn how their actions can impact the health of these ecosystems. By promoting a deeper understanding of the benefits provided by native trees, such as biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services, awareness campaigns encourage individuals to take action to protect these precious natural resources.

Economic benefits of native trees

Native trees in Sri Lanka offer valuable economic benefits. One of the main advantages is their contribution to the tourism industry. The diverse plant life and lush green landscapes attract adventure travelers from all over the world, boosting eco-tourism revenue.

Additionally, native trees provide timber resources that fuel local industries such as furniture-making and handicrafts. This creates job opportunities for communities living near forests and contributes to the country’s economy.

Moreover, certain tree species have medicinal properties, which are utilized in traditional Ayurvedic medicine practices, further supporting local livelihoods and healthcare systems.


In conclusion, “A Guide to the Native Trees of Sri Lanka” is a valuable resource for adventure travelers interested in exploring the rich flora of this tropical paradise. With its comprehensive coverage of 125 common tree species and detailed descriptions, this book serves as an excellent field guide for identifying trees and shrubs in Sri Lanka.

The inclusion of photographs further enhances its user-friendly nature, making it accessible to both residents and visitors. Whether you’re curious about the biodiversity, ecosystem services, or cultural significance of native trees, this guide provides all the information you need.

So grab your copy and embark on a journey through Sri Lanka’s magnificent forests!


1. How many native tree species are found in Sri Lanka?

There are approximately 242 native tree species found in Sri Lanka.

2. Are all native trees in Sri Lanka protected?

Not all native trees in Sri Lanka are protected, but there are certain endangered and threatened species that have legal protections.

3. Can I grow native trees from seeds at home?

Yes, you can grow some native trees from seeds at home by following proper planting methods and providing the right conditions for germination and growth.

4. Where can I find more information about the identification of native trees in Sri Lanka?

You can find more information about the identification of native trees in Sri Lanka through field guides or online resources specific to Sri Lankan flora, such as botanical websites or publications by local experts.

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