THE ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE OF THE ARACEAE AND THEIR ROLE IN ECOSYSTEMS 

Members of the Araceae are of major economic importance, mostly in tropical countries. They are used as food crops, ornamental plants and medicinal plants and may even be used in mystic or ritual ceremonies. 

The family is also important in ecological terms, occupying a wide range of niches in rainforest and other vegetation types. Because of the specific ecological requirements of many species, aroids constitute important ecological indicators of forest quality or type. 

Aroids occupy a diversity of habitats, from moist and wet tropical rainforest to seasonally very dry areas in tropical Africa, and may even be found up to an altitude of 4500 m, e.g. Arisaema lobatum and Arisaema jacquemontii in the Himalaya. Several aroids are restricted to or have a preference for limestone, such as Colocasia gigantea, and various species of Schismatoglottis and Alocasia. Some taxa occupy very specific niches: e.g. free-floating aquatic (e.g. Pistia), rheophytic (some Schismatoglottideae, Homalomena species, Rhaphidophora beccarii), submerged aquatic (Cryptocoryne), epiphytic (rare in Malesian Araceae but very abundant in the Neotropics), lithophytic (Remusatia, Colocasia gigantea), freshwater swamp (Lasia, Cyrtosperma) and mangrove swamp (Aglaodorum) habitats. However, most of the Araceae are plants of the forest floor, with some, especially the more gigantic species of Alocasia and Amorphophallus titanum, adapted to disturbed places such as canopy gaps and road sides.

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