Dave Looks for Plants

Journal of a plant explorer

Posts Tagged ‘Costus villosissimus’

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 La Cangreja

Monday, May 8th, 2006

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’.


Rancho Mastatal

Sunday, May 7th, 2006

The buses for my travel to the next location, Rancho Mastatal, were pretty easy to figure out until I arrived at Santiago de Puriscal.  From there I was told to go wait in front of a certain grocery store in town and the bus would be there later that afternoon.  So there I was, a gringo with backpack and all in a town that does not see many tourists.  One by one, taxi drivers would come up to me and ask if I was looking for a ride somewhere.  Finally, not knowing how much longer it would take for the bus, I asked one of them for the price to take me there.  I knew it was about 30 km and on a very poor road once leaving the main road.  But the driver must have been hurting for business and quoted me a good price so I took it.  It turned out to be well over an hour and he had trouble finding the place but eventually we got there.

Rancho Mastatal is the name of a small village and also the name of an environmental learning and sustainable living center, started by Tim O’Hara and Robin Nunes, former Peace Corps volunteers.  It has all the atmosphere of what we used to call a “hippie commune”, but only in the positive aspects of such.  They make their own soap, bake their own bread and build the houses there out of sustainable materials (like cow dung).  More about Rancho Mastatal when I describe trip number 3, Costa Rica, August 2006, when my wife Karen came back there with me and took lots more photos of the really interesting non-Costus stuff.

Here is Timo, standing in front of the main house and a large clump of Costus villosissimus.