Amazonian forest trees
4,000 species of Amazonian trees remain to be discovered.Nigel Pitman, The Field Museum

There are so many trees in the Amazon rainforest that it may take 300 years to discover all of the different species, scientists have said. The forest is home to the largest number of trees in the world, although the actual figure is still uncertain.

In 2013, scientists estimated there were about 16,000 trees in the Amazon Rainforest. This latest study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, aimed to confirm this number and to establish whether a lot of tree species remained to be discovered.

Amazonian forest trees
Three centuries may be needed to find all the trees in the Amazonian forestDado Galdieri/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rarest trees still to be discovered

The research involved a large international team of botanists who sorted through half a million museum specimens of Amazon tree species collected between the years 1707 and 2015. Such collections had been digitised which greatly facilitated their efforts and allowed them to share specimen images quickly. The scientists came up with a final list of 11,676 distinct trees.

Amazonian forest trees
Trees in a part of the Amazonian forest located in BrazilVeronique DURRUTY/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

"We interpret this to mean that our 2013 estimate of 16,000 species is good, and that about 4,000 of the rarest Amazonian trees remain to be discovered and described", says Nigel Pitman, The Field Museum's Mellon Senior Conservation Ecologist. "Since 1900, between 50 and 200 new trees have been discovered in the Amazon every year. Our analysis suggests that we won't be done discovering new tree species there for three more centuries."

Coming up with such a comprehensive list of what trees grow in the Amazon Jungle is also a valuable resource to promote conservation efforts, as it clarifies things for scientists studying the Amazon flora and makes them better equipped to identify most vulnerable species.