Dave Looks for Plants

Journal of a plant explorer

Archive for May 3rd, 2006

Lankester Gardens

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

So the next morning I loaded up my backpack and walked around asking people where the bus to Cartago picks up.  Eventually I found a line of people along a street and someone who responded “¡Aquí!” when I asked “¿Donde esta el bus para Cartago?“.  My next challenge was where to get off in Cartago.  When I saw we were at the central square, I figured that was a good place, so I got off there.  Next question, where is the bus to Paraíso?  Someone pointed in a direction and said something like “Allá, a la esquina cerca la iglesia.”  Unfortunately for me I had not yet learned the Spanish word for church, so I did not know exactly where to go, but eventually found the right pick-up point and waited for the bus to Paraíso.

When I boarded the bus I explained to the driver as best I could that I would like to be dropped off at Lankester Gardens, which is just a couple of km before Paraíso.  He nodded that he understood.  Away we go and before too long we were coming into a town with signs on some buildings indicating we were in Paraíso – he had forgotten to drop me off.  So I waited on the bus until he was ready to make his return trip to Cartago and this time he remembered to drop me off at Lankester Gardens, which is about a km walk down a driveway off the main road.

Lankester Gardens is very nice, best known for its collections of orchids.  I walked around the grounds and lo and behold I found a species I had never seen before – the beautiful Costus montanus.  That species was not in general cultivation in the USA.   I asked permission from a Mexican botanist who was working there, and cut off an inflorescence, detailed the flowers, then collected some seeds.

Costus_montanus-R2972-LancesterGdnsCostaRica-03
 

Normally, to import any plants or plant parts into the USA you need to have an import permit and you need to get phytosanitary certificates from a government official in the country of origin.  But just a month or so before this trip, the USDA had promolgated a new regulation allowing the import of small lots of seeds without requiring the phytos.  I had obtained the Small Lot Seed Permit so this trip I was able to bring back seeds of any unusual Costus I might find.  The regulation was so new that when I came back in through Atlanta and declared the seeds, the inspectors there knew nothing at all about it.  Fortunately I had made a copy of the Federal Register containing the new regulation, and they permitted my entry with these seeds.  So I am now growing Costus montanus from seeds collected at Lankester Gardens.

After my morning experiences with Costa Rica bus drivers, I was not ready to try to flag down a bus along the highway to get to Orosi, and I knew it was only about 10 km, so I asked at the Lankester desk to call me a taxi.  I stayed in Orosi at a comfortable little hostel, Montaña Linda