Dave Looks for Plants

Journal of a plant explorer

Posts Tagged ‘Costus scaber’

Podocarpus National Park

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

On Wednesday we went to the Parque Nacional Podocarpus, which has a north entrance along the Rio Bombusco a short distance from Zamora.  Along the entry road we spotted a huge (literally huge) surprise.  It was the same Costus form I had seen in the park in 2007 minus flowers and here it was in full bloom.   I had collected seeds in 2007, but that plant had not yet flowered for me, so I was not sure what species it was.  The general “look” of the plant made me think Costus laevis, and here it was confirmed.  But not like any other Costus laevis form I had ever seen.  Not even close to the plants found in Central America or the western side of the Andes in South America.

Typical Costus laevis flowers from Central America

Costus_laevis-flowers
 

Form found at Podocarpus National Park

R3331-05 R3331-01
 

First of all, this was the biggest inflorescence I had ever seen in a Costus.  The plant itself was also fairly large and the leaves as well.  But what really caught my attention was the fact that the upper leaves were gathered around the infloresence, partially sheathing it just like the pendent flowering Costus ‘El Gato’ I had seen from nearby Gualaquiza and other places on the eastern side of the Andes. 

Later on, examining the herbarium voucher specimen of the type for the species from Peru, I can see now that the leaves are covering the inflorescence in the same way.  This all leads me to conclude that the true species Costus laevis is of the form found on the eastern side of the Andes, and the plants in Central America and west of the Andes in South America should revert back to their original species names or possibly be renamed as a separate species.  They are simply too distinctly different to be lumped into the same bucket unless there is convincing DNA evidence to the contrary.

For those who may be interested in such things, a thumbnail sheet with all the details of the flower parts can be found on my website HERE .

After we reached the park and walked along the trails we saw several more of these plants, many of them in flower, so there could be no doubt about it.

IMG_2674-rs
 

Marco said he remembered seeing yet another plant, different from this glabrous one, having very hairy leaves.  So we kept hiking uphill and off the trail to an abandoned finca where he remembered seeing it.  After bushwhacking our way through thick brush we finally found it.  And yes, this I would is yet  another form of that diverse species we humans call Costus laevis.  To see the full details of the plant and flowers go to my THUMBNAIL SHEET for this plant.  Aside from the hairy leaves this form has much smaller inflorescence, and a very short calyx and other parts making it clearly distinct from the Podocarpus form.

 

IMG_2704-rs IMG_2717-rs
 

We walked back along the long trail that follows the east side of the river but did not see any other Costus species, except for the ubiquitous Costus scaber, that is common throughout the region. 

IMG_2688-rs
 

We did however see one very pretty pink bracted Heliconia before heading back to Zamora.

 

Hel08-Podocarpus1 Hel08-Podocarpus6

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.

Costus_guanaiensis-Mastatal-06r Costus_guanaiensis-Mastatal-09r
 

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.

Cerr Cangreja-04r
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……

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iS5kykjEMo&feature=youtube_gdata

and monkeys.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qcgqsPRlhU&feature=youtube_gdata

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

Costus_laevis_Orange-Leos-03r Costus_laevis_Orange-Leos-02r
 

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.

Costus_pulverulentus-Leos-03r
 

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.

 

Cerro Nara

Friday, May 12th, 2006

The next morning I climbed in the saddle and off we went up the mountain.  I am not an experienced horseback rider, and my horse only knew Spanish, so we were in a bit of trouble from the start.  Fortunately the horse had a pretty good idea where we were going and if the horse didn’t, Carlos did.  

When we got near the top, I spotted what I was looking for — the plant that had been (incorrectly) identified as Costus barbatus turned out to be Costus ricus  As it turned out this species which is endemic to Costa Rica and known mostly from the Osa Peninsula was very common there at Cerro Nara.  Costus ricus is the only species of Costus I have found that flowers ONLY in the DRY SEASON.  It starts flowering in January and continues into the early part of the rainy season.  After about August, you will no longer find any new flowers — only the colorful red bracts from the dry season inflorescence.  This worked in my favor for the timing of this trip because I saw hundreds of these plants in full flower at Cerro Nara.

Costus_ricus-R2970-CerroNara-05Costus_ricus-R3165-CerroNara-14r2

At first Carlos wanted me to stay in a small hut because the generator was not working in the main lodge, but after one look I knew that was not suitable, and took the lodge with or without electricity.  It is a huge place with a beautiful view of the coastal plain and the Pacific Ocean below.  My meals were prepared by the caretaker’s family who lived about a km down the road.

The next three days I spent exploring the trails around Cerro Nara looking for Costus and the afternoons and evenings sitting on the balcony of the lodge watching the sun set over the Pacific and the lights of the settlements below.  Except for my trips down the lane to get my meals at Marielo’s house, I was there by myself and enjoying the solitude.

CerroNara-23
 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nzq6Wrt2qk&feature=youtube_gdata

As for the plants, there was a beautiful specimen of Costus glaucus growing right in front of the lodge….

Costus_glaucus-CerroNara-01 Costus_glaucus-CerroNara-02
 

and a nice form of Costus scaber growing behind the lodge with longer, showier flowers than I have normally seen.

Costus_scaber-R2971-CerroNara-48rs

Exploring the Osa Peninsula

Thursday, July 7th, 2005

The next day’s plan was to go on a longer hike deep into the rain forest to Cerro Brujo (Witch Mountain).  Reinaldo was uncertain of the trails himself despite 15 years of exploring the peninsula, so we stopped at Rancho Quemado and picked up a friend of his named Carlos who knew the way.  Along the way we saw my first poisonous snake of the trip, an “eyelash pit viper”, sunning himself on a fallen tree.

EyelashViper - Carlos Trail
 

Eventually we came to a place that Reinaldo was looking for, where he had discovered a new tree species, of the genus Pleiodendron, family Canellaceae, that had previously been known only from Africa and South America.  A Costa Rican newspaper article in La Nación of March 2005 reported that only two of these trees had been found, one farther north of Quepos, and the other one that we were looking at that day.  Such is the nature of the Osa Peninsula which has a fantastic diversity of species and endemics.  Reinaldo proceeded with slingshot and twine to try to capture some fruits from the upper branches to send to Barry Hammel at INBio in Santo Domingo.

TREE - Pleiodendron sp. TREE - Pleiodendron sp.
 

As for Costus, mostly I saw the more common ones like C. pulverulentus and C. laevis, but there was also a thin stemmed, tightly spiraling form of Costus scaber that I have seen a few other times on the peninsula, and it seems to me to be a different variety of that very common species.

That night we stayed in a thatched roof hut with mattresses on the floor.  After that long strenuous hike I probably could have slept right on the hard ground.  The next morning we woke to the sound and sight of bats flying around over our heads.

Osa5r
 

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FqXyQWDrpM&feature=youtube_gdata

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. 

Drake-01r Drake-06r
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

Tuesday, July 5th, 2005

While at La Gamba I had met an Austrian botanist, Eva Schembera, who specialized in plants of the family Leguminosae.  She had a few days off and was going to be on the Osa Peninsula with nothing else to do, so I invited her to join Reinaldo and I looking for plants.  The next morning we had breakfast at the Restaurante Carolina, where we met her and one of Reinaldo’s friends, the well known local guide, Mike Boston, who I always think of as “Crocodile Mike“.

We were soon on our way, the three of us, Eva, Reinaldo and I. (Here is a short video clip). 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DASj-0NjhSM&feature=youtube_gdata

We headed north to the Reserva Forestal Golfo Dulce where we found Costus lasius, Costus ricus , Costus scaber and Costus stenophyllus. and a few other more common ones, Costus laevis and Costus pulverulentus.

That night we had dinner and stayed in a small hostal overlooking the Golfo Dulce near the village of Rincon.

View above Drake