Dave Looks for Plants

Journal of a plant explorer

Posts Tagged ‘Costus guanaiensis’

The plants at La Cangreja

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

When I returned to Rancho Mastatal and the Parque Nacional La Cangreja, I did see many more Costus plants in flower, as expected.  There was lots of Costus laevis as well as others including Costus villosissimus, Costus glaucus, Costus pulverulentus, Costus guanaiensis, and Costus scaber.  Below is the C. guanaiensis form seen along the road a short distance from Rancho Mastatal.

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One day Chepo and I took the long, strenuous hike to the summit of Cerro Cangrejo.  Along the trail to the top the only Costus I saw was C. pulverulentus but the view was fabulous, with the rainforest of the National Park in the foreground and the Pacific Ocean in the distance.

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Across the road and down a little way from Rancho Mastatal is a property owned by a man named Leo who agreed to show me around.  Leo was convinced that I was there like most tourists to see the animals such as pecaries……

and monkeys.

There was an unusual looking form of Costus laevis at Leo’s place, with predominantly orange flowers instead of red.

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The form of C. pulverulentus found at Leo’s place was very hairy whereas others in the area were nearly totally glabrous.  This exemplifies the fact that the indument (hairiness) on Costus spp. tends to be variable within a species.


My second adventure concludes

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

The next day I took the express bus back from Quepos to San Jose and thus ended my second adventure in Costa Rica.  I had searched for Costus barbatus and although I had not found it I had checked out several potential locations and I had seen several other Costus that I had not seen before that trip in flower and in the wild.  My plant list for this trip is not quite as long as the first trip to the Osa, but a good list none the less.

Click on the links to go to the plant datasheets on these plants and see more photos and information on the Gingers R Us website.


Parque Nacional Tapantí

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

The next morning I went to the Tapantí National Park to begin my search in earnest for Costus barbatus.  One of the INBio records indicated a collection along the trail Arboles Caidos, so that is where I headed first.


Along that trail I saw lots of Costus curvibracteatus, but nothing I could identify as C. barbatus.  It is certainly possible that I missed it, but I think it is more likely that someone incorrectly identified the former. The two species are superficially similar in appearance and C. curvibracteautus was not even described and named until 1976, so would not have been readily available in the literature.

Nonetheless, it was exciting for me to find this species because I had never seen it before even in cultivation – much less in the wild.  And there is further confusion that was created by yet another error in identification of the cultivated species that are popular in the gardens of the USA.  The species you will usually see in botanical gardens under the name Costus curvibracteatus is actually a Peruvian species – Costus productus.  It has been my mission to try to get these incorrect identifications corrected wherever possible.

 Other species I saw at Tapantí included C. pulverulentus and another plant that I am unsure of the identification, could be C. guanaiensis or possibly C. allenii or maybe something altogether new.


I did take some video of the trails, the river, and waterfall at Tapantí, in case anyone wants to catch the general “flavor” of the park.


Exploring the Osa Peninsula

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

The next morning we headed across the peninsula through Rancho Quemado, taking side hikes in various places along the way.  Here I heard my first (of many times over the coming years) sounds of howler monkeys.  I had been trying to catch the sounds and a glimpse of them on camera, with no luck.  Eva told a little tale of one of her early experiences.  Eva’s Monkey Story

That day we saw the following species of Costus:  C. lima, C. guanaiensis, C. ricus, C. scaber, and probably a few others I am forgetting.

By evening we had made our way to the Pacific coast and stayed the night at a very spartan little place with no electricity alongside the Drake airstrip.  The owner cooked us some dinner of rice and local fish over a wood fire and we sat there talking about the day’s adventures. 

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Then the niece of the owner wanted us to visit her home a couple of km down the road.  So we walked in the moonlight and came to a small settlement where they had just gotten electricity a few months prior.  The government had given everyone a brand new refrigerator and everyone was huddled around a small television set watching a tele-novela called “La Madrasta“.  Now here is the weird part….   Before I left on the trip, I had been watching that same series on Univision, using closed captions to try to learn Spanish.  The episode they were watching had been shown in the US several weeks prior, so I knew exactly what was going to happen next.  I could not resist pretending that I was psychic or something and able to predict the next scene.  Problem is, those shows are so predictable anyone can pretty much do that without having seen it.


Exploring the Osa Peninsula

Monday, July 4th, 2005

After a great experience at La Gamba I got a ride down to the town of Golfito on the Golfo Dulce to start the next part of my adventure.  It is an interesting little town, with few tourists but there is a duty free zone there and shoppers fly in from San Jose to buy merchandise.  The town is strung out along the coast between the coastal hills and the gulf.  A ferry, La Launcha, makes regular trips back and forth between Golfito and Puerto Jimenez on the peninsula.   I took the one-hour ferry ride across the gulf, interrupted by a short stop part way across to pick up another passenger who had missed the boat.

When I arrived at  Puerto Jimenez, Reinaldo and his wife Catherine were waiting for me on the dock. We went to a local botanical garden where I saw Costus guanaiensis, then to dinner, and then I checked in to a small hotel.

Wilson Botanical Garden

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

The next morning was my Sansa flight to a small airstrip near the Panama border known as “Coto 47”.  The aircraft was a small Cessna single engine and I was sitting behind the pilot and copilot.  As we descended, all I could see below was white as a low fog had completely covered the oil palms below.  As we got down just above the oil palms, the pilot and copilot stood up in their seats and stared intensely, obviously trying to see the runway through the fog.  They abandoned that approach and circled back around.  Again, they leaned forward trying to find the runway, then looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders….. and landed!  Good thing I am not a nervous flyer or my breakfast likely would have been on their backs.

I hired a taxi to take me to Wilson Botanical Gardens, which is a few km before San Vito.  Very nice facility, comfortable rooms, and by this time I had learned the Latin American customs for disposing of toilet paper and the so-called “suicide showers” for hot water.  

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 All in all though, Wilson Botanical Garden was a bit of a disappointment.  The 34 taxa of Costaceae I had read about on the internet were nowhere to be found. 

One evening during dinner I sat next to the former director there, Sr. Luis Diego Gómez.  Sr. Gómez explained to me that he had collected Costus with Dr. Paul Maas, many of which had been in the gardens there. He said that after Mr. Wilson died, Mrs. Wilson gave away most of the plants and the gardens fell in disrepair.  He said that some of them were taken to the USA by the famous Heliconia expert, Fred Berry.  I suppose that several of the plants that today are cultivated in our gardens here are clones propagated from the collections at Wilson Botanical Garden.

The only species I saw that seemed to be growing naturally in the area was Costus laevis.  In the gardens I did see a form of Costus guanaiensis and some Costus pulverulentus.  The only “new-to-me” species I saw there was Costus spiralis, which was growing right behind my cabin.

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