Bolivia shares much of the wide variety of flora and fauna found in the four countries surrounding it. Because of the wide range in altitude, Bolivia has plants representative of every climatic zone, from arctic growth high in the sierra to tropical forests in the Amazon basin. On the high plateau above 3,050 m (10,000 ft) grows a coarse bunch grass called ichu, used for pasture, thatching, and weaving mats. A reed called totora, which grows around Lake Titicaca, is used for making small fishing boats (balsas). The low bushlike tola and the resinous mosslike yareta are both used for fuel. The Lake Titicaca region is believed to be the original home of the potato.
In the tropical forest, the quinine-producing quina tree grows, as does the Pará rubber tree. There are more than 2,000 species of hardwoods. Aromatic shrubs are common, as are vanilla, sarsaparilla, and saffron plants. Useful native plants include palms, sweet potatoes, manioc, peanuts, and an astonishing variety of fruits. The Chaco is covered with a prickly scrub collectively called monte; tannin-producing quebracho trees also abound there.
On the Altiplano, the most important animal is the llama, one of the most efficient carrier animals known; alpaca and guanaco and several varieties of cavy (guinea pig) are found there, too. Lake Titicaca has several varieties of edible fish. In the tropical Amazon region are the puma, coati, tapir, armadillo, sloth, peccary, capiguara (river hog), and ant bear, as well as several kinds of monkeys. Birdlife is rich and varied. Reptiles and an enormous variety of insects are found below 3,050 m (10,000 ft).