Dave Looks for Plants

Journal of a plant explorer

Posts Tagged ‘Costus spiralis’

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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