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Costa Rica has trees, you have never seen before !!

Trees Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come. ~ Chinese proverb

Costa Rica chose the guanacaste (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) as its national tree, although it had an abundance of other choices. The diversity of trees concentrated in Costa Rica is amazing. You’ll recognize coconut palms on the beach and pine trees at higher elevations, but not perhaps gmelina, or teak, which are grown on lowland tree farms.

The hearts of palm tree (from which palm oil is extracted) is the pejibaye palm. An interesting tall tree is the Indio desnudo (naked Indian), whose peeling bark is a deep brick-red. The tree is also known as “sunburned gringo,” for obvious reasons. Its fruit is a favorite of white-faced monkeys.

Living Fenceposts: We couldn’t get over “living fence- posts,” a phenomenon attributed to the combination of climate and the properties of native arboles (trees). As they do all over the world, ranchers and farmers here use cut tree trunks or branches to make inexpensive fenceposts. But once stuck in the rich Costa Rican soil, the nearly-dead branches take root and grow, creating a row of sapling trees that divide fields. Several species perform this amazing task, including Indio desnudo, erythrina (used to shade coffee), fig, madre maton and madre de cacao. Spiny cactus is also used as fencing in Guanacaste and Nicoya.

The giant ceiba is a sacred tree to indigenous people whose beliefs have passed down from the ancient religion of the Maya. Their influence extended this far south. The milk tree in Corcovado has a drinkable milky latex sap and its sweet fruit is edible. Almond trees are commonly used for shade. They are not the same as those in the US, but the nut tastes similar.

Jacaranda are large open-crowned trees with deep purple-blue blossoms in the dry season. Another colorful tree is the African tulip tree, which has deep green leaves and brilliant red-orange blossoms tinged with yellow.

The dangerous manchineel tree (manzanillo) grows on and near beaches. The fruit is highly poisonous and, although the tree’s shiny green leaves and spreading branches give good shade, don’t sit under it. One of the most important trees in Costa Rica’s history is the cacao, the seed of which is used to make chocolate. The country was once a leading grower and still has a sizeable commercial crop.

Mangroves look more like shrubs than trees, but coastal mangroves (mangle) areas are a critical part of the ecosystem. Their many functions include protecting fish, sponges, coral and marine life under their intertwined roots, and sheltering bird nests in their brushy foliage above ground. Along the sea, mangroves dampen winds, high waves and flooding when storms hit. They trap soil in their mangled root system that eventually fills in to become land. Their importance as a wetland anchor and natural wildlife haven cannot be exaggerated.

Strangler Fig: A reed before the wind lives on, while mighty oaks do fall. ~ English proverb. - Strangler figs (ficus) begin their life innocently enough, one among many epiphytes living on the branches of a rainforest tree. But soon their long woody roots wrap around the host tree on their way to the forest floor. After many years, competition with the fig kills the host tree. It is not uncommon to come across a hollow, lattice work-like ficus formed in the shape of the tree that rotted out within it.

One canopy tour in Monteverde features a climb inside the fig tree’s tube-like structure up to the platform.

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