Flora & Fauna of CR

Heliconia wagneriana

Heliconia wagneriana has a height of 5′ to 15′ and a long blooming season from January to September. The bracts are somewhat variable, bright red areas cover most of the cheek and it is surrounded by pale green along the lip keel and tip with yellow areas at the base. Foliage is banana like with waxy white coating on stems and lower midrib. 

Heliconia wagneriana is widely cultivated throughout Central America.
Although Heliconias flourish in the humid lowland tropics at elevations below 1500 feet, surprisingly, the greatest number of species are found in middle elevation rain and cloud forest habitats.   Further information.  

Calathea Crotalifera

San Jose Zoo – 5/18/09
Also known as a Golden Rattlesnake plant (for obvious reasons). Distribution is from Mexico to Ecuador, the C. crotafilera is an herb, growing 2 – 4 meters tall, flowering from January through October, but more profusely during the rainy season.
The leaves are very utilitarian, some cooks pefer to use them over bananas or corn husks to wrap their tamales. Indigienous people of the Talamancas have used them to wrap their dead prior to burial. The leaves also serve as disposable umbrellas. 
Reference: Tropical Plants of Costa Rica  

Unidentified - San Jose Zoo

Heliconia cariaea - San Jose Zoo

This is one of the largest heliconias, growing to a height over over 20′.  The heliconias were abundant and beautiful, planted in very large clumps.

Heliconias are easily grown in South Florida, but I’ve never seen such an abundance and variety as I saw in Costa Rica.

Arundia graminifolia - Volcano Inn, Arenal

This ground orchid resembled a terete vanda, however it has much leafier foliage.  A graminifolia is a native to Asia, but is grown as a common tropical ornamental in Costa Rica.

The maid left several of these blossoms on our made up bed.

Volcano Inn Garden, Arenal

The grounds of the Volcano Inn in Arenal were well manicured, and included Heliconias, Gingers, Bouganvilla, Ground Orchids, Palms, and many other beautiful specimens.

Every morning, a platoon of gardeners arrived, manicuring every inch of the five or so acres.

Impatiens - roadsides all over Costa Rica

Escapees grow all along the roadside in Costa Rica. They are mercilessly mowed down, along with the rest of the weeds. These are the same water-slurping impatiens we plant in South Florida every winter.

Cashew Apple & Nut

The cashew tree is a beautiful ornamental tree, as well as a nutritious and useful in manufacturing.

The cashew seed has within the outside shell the edible kernel or nut. In its raw form the cashew kernel is soft, white and meaty. When roasted it changes colour and taste. Salted, it appeals to the palate as the most delicious nut.

Cashew apples and cashew nuts are excellent sources of nutrition. The cashew apple contains five times more vitamin C than an orange and contains more calcium, iron and vitamin B1 than other fruit such as citrus, avocados and bananas.

Cashew shell oil extracted from the shells is caustic and causes burns on the skin. The mucous membranes of the mouth and throat are severely affected when it comes into contact with shell oil or the irritating fumes emitted during roasting. The oily shell liquid has many uses.

brassavola nodosa ~ The Lady of the Night orchid

I saw several of these attached to trees in Costa Rica.  This species orchid is quite popular as a parent of numerous hybrids, as it is a fast grower, is fragrant, and is a prolific bloomer.  I purchased several of it’s offspring, BC Maikai, from JEM orchids when they closed down their operations and sold off their stock after the disastrous hurricane season of 2005.  A BC Maikai is a cross between the b nodosa and cattleya skinneri, the national flower of Costa Rica.

Female Green Iguana on a Papaya Plant

The Green Iguana, also known as a “bamboo chicken”….has the interesting species name Iguana iguana.

They are ever present here, the one photographed above crawled off the roof, down a tree, and wandered around the yard chewing on plants of interest.  The one below is a juvenile, hard to spot where it was, except it was almost a fluorescent color of green.

Juvenile Green Iguana

Golden Orb Weaver ~ Nephila clavipes

Orchideas Inn, Alajuela.  This is a link to a fascinating article about a silk tapestry made out of the silk of this spider.  [Update:  Apparently these two forward thinkers have now created a beautiful garment out of the silk of these spiders.  1/23/12]  [Update #2:  Yet another link to the UK Daily Mail.  To get an idea of exactly how big these (female) spiders are, photos of one who has captured a snake!]

The Golden Orb-weaver is one of the largest spiders in Central America and is the largest orb-weaving spider in the New World.  The females have bodies about one inch long, and when the legs are included, they average over 2.5 inches long.  In contrast,the tiny males do not exceed a quarter inch in length, including the legs.  When you encounter one of these spider webs, look carefully in an area within several inches of the conspicuous female.  You will discover a tiny spider nearby, which is the male!  The large webs of this spider may be up to two feet across and are distinguished by very strong golden yellow.  This silk has incredible strength considering its diameter, and it has been used for industrial purposes like crosshairs in some telescopes.   Reference:  Wildlife of Costa Rica ~ Carrol L. Henderson


Howler Monkey

We heard the howler monkeys at most places we’ve stayed, but until we took our guest for a canopy tour, we’d not actually seen them.


Senorita Chicabel

The rare and (not so) elusive Belly Rub Seeker.  AKA Guanacaste Rent-A-Dog.  Behaviour is such that this creature generally arrives around breakfast time, or any time her master goes out.   She is a sweet girl, and I know Blonde Mom will feel right at home with Chica visiting us on her regularly appointed rounds.


Iggy ~ Our Constant Companion

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