The Plant: Grains of Paradise
Western lowland gorillas in Africa don’t have far to look for A. melegueta. An herbaceous perennial plant, it is among the most common plants in the swampy lowlands there. Palmlike, it forms dense tangles and grows up to 1.5 meters high. Its trumpet-shaped, purple flowers develop into pods filled with small, reddish-brown seeds. The common name for the plant, grains of paradise, comes from its seeds and dates back to the Middle Ages, when the plant was a highly valued commodity. It still is vital to gorillas, who not only eat the plant but use it to make the nests, or beds, where they sleep each night.