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A botanical walk for all 5 senses

Blogpost written by Marina Garrido, Research Field Assistant

A few days ago, part of the staff and some researchers went for a walk with Osa Conservation’s botanist, Reinaldo Aguilar, from the biological station to the wildlife-friendly farm. All along the way, Reinaldo showed everyone different kinds of plants that grow in the Osa Peninsula, and shared his knowledge about the flora. We all had a lot of fun and enjoyed each plant we saw with all five senses. Since the staff is comprised of both Spanish and English speakers, we got to learn the plant names in both languages. Now, we want to share everything we learned with all of you.

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We started by learning about the Bromelia, from the family Bromeliaceae. The flower blooms during the night, and signals the plant to begin growing a new branch. Once the flower has been pollinated by bats and the flower is ready to become a fruit, some of the petals are eaten by crabs. We also learned that palm trees are characteristic of the primary forest, eventhough some species, like the royal palm, can be found in different habitats.

 

Along the way, we met some capuchin monkeys eating the fruits of a tree called Cow tongue, or Lengua de vaca (Liconia argentia). It is not uncommon to see capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, and white-nosed coatis snacking on the fruit of this native tree on a morning walk around the station.

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Once we were inside the wildlife-friendly farm, Reinaldo introduced us to the marvelous Anacardiaceae family. Within this family, there are some of  Osa’s tastiest fruits: mangos, jocotes, pistachios, and cashews. The genus Pistacia used to have its own family, but was recently added to the Anacardiaceae family. One of the defining characteristics of this family is the resin canals visible on the pith of the plants.

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We had some fun with our confusion between the Guava and Inga trees. The Guava tree is called Guayaba in Spanish (Psidium guajaba). Its leaves are opposite and simple, and the flowers are white and very smelly. Its sweet fruit is a favorite of many monkeys and the leaves possess glands that excrete oil to protect themselves from larvae. When backlit, these glands look like tiny cells surrounding the leaf. On the other hand, a species of the Inga tree is called Guaba in Spanish (Inga edulis).  Its fruit grows in a pod, which can easily be opened by hand. The seeds are found inside the pod along with the characteristic white pulp. These fruits can be found all around the peninsula and are a sweet and delicious snack for every wanderer in the Osa.

An additional tree that we all enjoyed was the Pochote tree (Bombacopsis quinata). This tree is common on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Its thorns cover the entire trunk and its white flowers turn red once they fall. These two unique characteristics make this tree quite easy to identify. Its leaves are edible and, according to some of our assistants, very tasty!