Habitat & Geography

Map of Mexico. [Found on Wikipedia Commons, originally published by the CIA World Factbook.]

The origins of Vanilla planifolia have been traced back to Southeast Mexico and Guatemala, but today it can be found growing within 20 degrees north or south of the equator across the world.  In addition to the close proximity to the equator, Vanilla grows best about 2,000 feet above sea level, in a moist, tropical climate, with temperatures hovering near 80 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year.  However, with the variety of growing locations comes a variety in the ending vanilla product, in terms of vanilla pods.  As the owners of Rodelle Vanilla Products put it, “…Like wine, vanilla flavors vary depending upon the climate and soil conditions of the country of origin, as well as the cultivation, drying and curing processes used.”  The most important growers and exporters of Vanilla are the islands of Madagascar and Réunion, the former of which accounts for 70% of the world’s vanilla production.

      The tropical regions of the world.  [Found in Wikipedia Commons, Author and Publisher Unknown.]

A tropical forest.  [Found in Wikipedia Commons, Author and Publisher Unknown]
The tropics are by no means a unique home for an organism.  Tropical forests have the highest diversity of any biome.  The forests are dense, and vertically layered.  Because of the vast number of plants in the area, competition for sunlight is particularly intense.  The tropics provide the only home to millions of species, and house an estimated five to thirty million species of organisms still undiscovered.  Other interesting organisms commonly found in the tropics include: Coffee arabica, Citrus reticulata, Chrysopelea paradisi, Averrhoa carambola, and Saccharum officinar.


Let's next take a look at the ways vanilla has changed to best suit this environment.
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