Rainforests thrive in the mountain areas, where heavy rainfall nurtures huge tree ferns and slow-growing, moss-laden hardwoods. The vegetation is sparse in the intermediate zones, where more recent lava flows fail to hold moisture or soil. The richer coastal strip is well planted in vegetable gardens and coconut plantations.
The national flower is the teuila, or red ginger (Alpinia purpurata), an elongated stalk with many waxy red petals.
Although Upolu is smaller than Savai'i, its rich volcanic soil supports 72 percent of the population of Samoa; much of Savai'i is barren due to recent lava flows and the porousness of the soil, which allows rapid runoff of moisture.
The rainforests of Samoa are threatened by exploitive logging operations for shortsighted economic gain, and already 80 percent of the lowland tropical rainforests have been replaced by plantations or logged. On a relative square kilometer basis, deforestation is occurring much faster than in the Amazon. Replanting is usually done in teak and mahogany, which native birds cannot use.
About 16 of 35 land bird species are unique to Samoa. One such species, the toothbilled pigeon, or manumea (Didunculus strigirostris), is thought to be a living link with toothbilled birds of fossil times.
Due to overhunting and habitat destruction, all native species of pigeons and doves are approaching extinction. Parliament has banned all hunting of fruit bats (flying foxes) and Pacific pigeons, but this is not enforced and the populations have not recovered from the carnage of the 1980s. From 1981 to 1986 over 30,000 flying foxes were exported from Samoa to Guam for gastronomical purposes, a trade that ended only in 1989 when the bats were added to the endangered species list.
Attack dogs are a nuisance throughout Samoa, but unless you've actually entered someone's yard, they'll soon retreat when they see you reaching down to pick up a stone. Their nocturnal barking may deprive you of some sleep.