Dave Looks for Plants

Journal of a plant explorer

Parque Nacional La Cangreja

Rancho Mastatal is located on the edge of the Cangreja National Park, one of the newest and least well known in the Costa Rican park system.  The province of Puriscal is pretty much deforested and settled, leaving this as one of the last islands of primary forest.  A beautiful creek (Quebrada Grande) runs through the park and there is a peak called Cerro La Cangreja at 1,305 meters in altitude.

La cangreja is Spanish for the crab, and I had heard several different things about the origin of the name for this place.  While looking for a URL to link on this page I found yet another explanation, translated here from the Spanish at http://areasyparques.com/areasprotegidas/parque-nacional-la-cangreja.

The Indian story tells of a large crab that lived on the mountain and prevented the passage of the locals towards the other villages, until one time a warrior fought him and managed to cut a leg unleashing his fury. Finding himself vanquished the crab decided to become stone; therefore, the top of the mountain is a rocky formation.

In the waters of the Quebrada Grande, I saw another possible reason for the name.


Tim (not wanting me to go by myself) arranged for Chepo,  a long-time local resident, to go with me through the park looking for my Costus.  As it turned out, it was a little too early in the season to find very many in flower, but I did see a number of species – enough so that I would want to return in just 3 months to catch them more into the rainy season.  In most of the Pacific coastal areas of Central America, the dry season runs from January to April and the rainy season begins late April or early May, continuing until November or December.  Something confusing to most of us “Norte Americanos” is that the word for summer, verano, is used for the hot, dry period of January to April.  Winter, invierno, occurs during the cooler rainy season — the North American summer.   I have learned that the peak flowering for most species of Costus is about 2-3 months into the rainy season. 

One species that is usually found in flower most any time of year is Costus laevis.


Here is a short film clip showing the area along Quebrada Grande in the park, with Chepo in the lead.


One very interesting plant was found along the road just a half kilometer or so from Rancho Mastatal.  It seems to be a natural hybrid of Costus villosissimus and Costus pulverulentus, both of which are common in the area.  I have since propagated it and registered it under the cultivar name Costus ‘Rancho Sunrise’.


Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply