More than 45,000 species of plants have been identified in Colombia, but it is predicted that when the region has been thoroughly explored that number may be doubled. At the highest (3,000–4,600 m/10,000–15,000 ft) and coldest level of mountain meadows, called páramos, the soil supports grasses, small herbaceous plants, and dense masses of low bushes. In the intermontane basins some vegetables, European-introduced grains, and corn are found, along with the bushes, trees, and meadow grasses indigenous to the region. The temperate areas support extensive and luxuriant forests, ferns, mosses, trees of the laurel family, Spanish cedars, vegetables, and grain crops. The tropical zone may be divided into four main groups according to the amount of rainfall received: desertlike areas supporting arid plants, deciduous forests, rain forests, and grass plains. Palm trees of various species abound in the tropics and there are many edible fruits and vegetables.
Animal life is abundant, especially in the tropical area. Among carnivorous species are puma, a variety of smaller cats, raccoons, and mustelids. Herbivores include the tapir, peccary, deer, and large tropical rodents. Sloths, anteaters, opossums, and several types of monkeys are also found, as well as some 1,665 species and subspecies of South American and migratory birds.