Dave Looks for Plants

Journal of a plant explorer

Lankester Gardens

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.


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


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