FLORA: The coral substance of the islands and their salinity have resulted in the non-existence of dense forests. While thick growths of almond are restricted to larger islands; coconut palms, breadfruit, screwpines, banyan, and lesser vegetation are omnipresent. Mangroves thrive in brackish waters and inland depressions, and different species of grass and sedge grow along the shorelines.
Fruits including bananas, papaya, watermelons, mangoes, pineapples, jujubes, custard apples, and lime; and vegetables like green chilli, small onions, pumpkins, and gourds are cultivated. Cereals such as millet and maize; and roots and tubers like taro, yam, sweet potatoes, and cassava are also grown domestically.
Tropical flowers are found in abundance, either in the wild or cultivated in gardens. Hibiscus tiliaceus, Cordia subcordata, Thespesia populnea, and Calophyllum inophyllum are among a large variety of local timber grown for domestic consumption. The casuarina (Casuarina equisetifolia), a large, fast-growing evergreen, is being promoted by the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture as excellent windbreakers to shelter weaker plants from the damaging effects of sea spray.
FAUNA: The seas surrounding the Maldives unfolds an exotic realm of marine life. Innumerable species of possibly all colours, shapes, and sizes - from 14-meter-long whale sharks to microscopic plankton, from gentle hawksbill turtles to the stunningly beautiful yet deadly scorpionfish - can be found right from the tepid waters of the ocean surface to the cold, dark abyss thousands of kilometers below. The coral reefs encircling the islands themselves offer a cornucopia of spectacular underwater life. Even the sandy shores are home to molluscs like razor shells and clams, many kinds of worms, and scavenging crabs.
Of the 100-odd species of birds found in the Maldives, around a fifth of them are residents, the rest being migratory. As in other oceanic islands, sea birds are profilic, with Laridae (gulls and terns), the most conspicuous. Graceful aerialists, the terns are especially well-known for their spectacular transcontinental migrations. A non-pelagic species of this highly gregarious family is the beautiful white, or fairy tern, found in the southernmost atoll of Seenu. Noddy terns, noted for their exceptional tameness are common throughout the archipelago. Wading shore birds such as plovers, snipes, and sandpipers concentrate along shorelines taking crustaceans, or probing for marine worms and fleas. Great and lesser frigate birds, masters of aerial piracy; and perhaps the most impressive of the lot, the truly pelagic tropic birds, typically breed on the numerous uninhabited islands. The large grey heron and the rarely seen Maldivian little heron are among the 13 recorded species of Ardeidae (herons and bitterns) found here.
While rose-ringed parakeets, one of the noisiest residents, and kestrels are confined to the central atoll of Kaafu; crows, parasitic koels, and white-breasted waterhens are ubiquitous, found on almost all the islands.
The limited mammalian population includes giant fruit bats (flying foxes), rats, and tree shrews (Tupaias). Cats and goats are the only domestic animals. Of snakes, only two species are known to exist. Rest of the fauna is made up of lesser animals such as lizards, including the widely distributed agamids and skinks; scorpions; and insects dominated by beautiful butterflies, paper wasps, and large rhinoceros beetles.