Flora. – According to Petsinclude, Ceylon has an exuberant and very rich vegetation with many endemic species. Before the exploitation by man of the forest for timber and before the settlement in large sectors of its crops (coffee, tea, china, rice, etc.), a dense and impenetrable jungle must have covered, as it still partly covers, the large island with its procession of epiphytes and lianas, of parasites including two Balanophora, of humiculous ferns; extremely heterogeneous forest often with gigantic trees belonging to various families such as Dipterocarpee, Rubiaceae, Sapotaceae, Euphorbiacee, Guttifere, Ebenaceae, Lauraceae to which the cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) belongs. But there are also several palms, including about ten at least Calamus, the Caryota urens, the gigantic Corypha umbraculifera, the imposing palmira (Borassus flabelliformis), this confined in the sandy soils found along the coast; indigenous but also widely cultivated is the coconut (Cocos nucifera).
The trees are for the most part evergreen, with often dazzling flowers and often variously colored leaves and the forest they make up changes with the altitude, so that above 1500 meters we can speak of a mountainous area characterized by essences with small, leathery leaves, thickly crammed with branches often dilated like an umbrella to resist the winds and which make up a dark and gloomy jungle in which species of the genera Eugenia, Calophyllum, Litsea, Actinodaphne, Gordonia, Elaeocarpus, Simplocos prevail, etc.; but the composition of the same varies even more with the amount of rain and with the distribution of this over the course of the year. The humid jungle, or rather what remains of it, is found, especially above 1500 meters, in the southwestern provinces. In the rest of the island the forest is lower, less heterogeneous, there are few lianas and epiphytes, almost absent bamboo and palm trees, while the undergrowth becomes very rich. Among the most important arboreal essences we mention the Chloroxylon swietenia which provides a very precious mahogany; The Diospyros Ebenum, ebony, while D. quaesita, another ebony of great value but now rare, is in the humid forest; the Berrya ammonilla ; there Mimusops hexandra: among the undergrowth shrubs we mention species of Memecylon, Bauhinia, Phyllanthus, Croton, etc.
Almost everywhere along the coasts the soil becomes sandy and the forest is replaced by a consortium of shrubs formed by several Acacia, Carissa, Eizyphus, Gmelina, around which numerous species of Ipomaea, Asparagus, various Asclepiadaceae and Cucurbitaceae climb. Mangrove formations of which the dominant species are Aegiceras fragrans, Thespesia populnea, Feronia elephantum, Salvadora persica, Eugenia bracteata, Elaeodendron Roxburgii are frequent along the low beach intersected by lagoons and salty lakes., etc. With the name of patanas we designate the grassy spaces that are found in the middle of the forests and have a physiognomy similar to the savannas. They are already encountered at 600 meters, but they are more developed in the mountainous area and especially in the least rainy region of the island. They are mainly made up of growing grasses so dense and tangled that they make it difficult and dangerous to cross them and they almost completely lack trees. In general it can be said that the flora of the plain and the hills of the humid jungle has close affinities with that of Malaysia; that typical of elevated and rainy areas is linked to the flora of the Nilgiri mountains of southern India, that of the dry area is very reminiscent of the flora of the Indian coast of Carnatic and Coromandel.
Among the cultivated and most highly profitable plants, until a few decades ago, the first place was occupied by coffee which then had to be abandoned as a result of the invasion of the parasitic fungus Hemileia vastatrix and replaced by the cultivation of tea. Rice, cocoa, cardamom, cinchona, grapevine, cotton and tobacco are also grown.
Fauna. – The fauna of Ceylon is very rich and varied. Although its general characters are those of the Indian fauna, the number of the species proper to Ceylon is nevertheless remarkable and some groups well represented here are lacking in India. Among the several Mammals monkeys, as Semnopithecus Cephalopterus, Sri Lanka thersitas, Sri Lanka ursinus, are exclusive to Ceylon; Loris gracilis is also found on the continent. The Ceylon elephant is related to the Malay subspecies (Elephas maximus sumatranus). Also characteristic is the Malabar mouse (Platacanthomys lesiurus) with a long tail similar to those of squirrels, which is also found in Cochinchina as well as in southern India. Uropeltidae are limited to Ceylon and the southern end of the Indian peninsula, curious snakes with a short and rigid body of which there are about 42 species. There are abundant birds including roosters and peacocks in the wild. Ceylon lacks tigers, hyenas, antelopes, buffaloes, sheep and wild goats, which are also more or less abundant in the peninsula.