Exploring Costa Rica’s Miraculous and Magnificent Flora

Costa Rica is one of the most unique and beautiful places on earth, a true nature lovers dream. The biodiversity and flora in the country is stunning, with totally different microclimates or zones that have different temperatures, humidity, sunlight and rainfall patterns, fostering an abundance of plant growth. From the tropical rainforests to the mangrove swamps, the cloud forests to the pristine beaches, Costa Rica boasts more than 10,000 species of plants, 1,300 species of orchids, 800 types of ferns and well over 100 different trees. In fact, they are still discovering and classifying flora in Costa Rica every year!

So when you’re visiting the ecological wonderland of Costa Rica, take some time to recognize the different trees, flowers, and plant life you see. Here is a breakdown of some of the most interesting, beautiful, and rare flora you’ll find in Costa Rica.

Bormeliads are a family of flowering plants that are common in Costa Rica, usually with spikey leaves. Most of them are air plants, growing right on trees, and especially the Ceiba tree, but some do grow with roots in the soil.

Costa Rica Flora, Costa Rica Fauna, Costa Rica Flowers, Costa Rica Plants, Costa Rica Flowering Plants, Costa Rica Orchids, Costa Rica Vacation, Plants in Costa RicaIn fact, Costa Rica has more than 2,000 different species of bromeliads!

The majority of them are found in the wet rainforests and higher-altitude cloud forests, like in Monteverde.

Bromelaids are some of the most adaptable plants on earth, evolving to survive in their environment.

For instance, Costa Rica bromeliads often grow with small scales in their center, known as rosettes, that function to collect rainwater, lead detritus, and even insects, all of which the bromeliad ingests to satisfy their nutrient requirements.

In fact, Costa Rican pineapples are terrestrial (growing in soil) bromeliads!

There are about 825 species of ferns that grow in the wild of the Costa Rican rainforests.

There are eight species of tree ferns, with some that can grow up to 60 cm in diameter and 12 meters tall!

The resurrection fern actually feigns its own death during hibernation, closing up, turning brown and withering during long periods of draught, only to spring to life and turn green and open again when the rains come.

Costa Rica is a haven for trees, with dense semi-tropical forests that can contain up to 90 species of trees in just a couple acres!

The Guanacaste Tree (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) is the national tree of Costa Rica. It’s canopy rounds out like an umbrella, forming a welcome shade barrier and making it very recognizable among other trees.

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The Ceiba Tree

Of course Costa Rica also has plenty of palm trees – also called coconut trees – along its beaches and coastlines. There is actually an ecological reason why palm trees grow so close to the ocean: once they drop their coconuts, many of them roll onto the beach where they may be washed into the ocean during high tide. The coconuts could be out to sea for months before washing up on some new shoreline hundreds of miles away, where they grow anew.

The Ceiba tree is common in Costa Rica, and one of the fastest growing trees in the world. Young Ceibas can actually shoot up 13 feet in just one year, and reach a maximum height of 200 feet tall! It’s no wonder the indigenous Costa Rican tribes consider the magnificent Ceiba to be sacred.

Milk or Cow trees are common in the rainforests and can be easily spotted by their bright orange-red roots. The wood is hard enough to be used for construction but the indigenous tribes love the sweet fruit it produces, with thick, white latex flowing through its trunk that they actually drink.

Costa Rican fruit
One of the best parts of visiting in Costa Rica is sampling the wonderful array of tropical fruits you’ll find. We encourage you to take a trip to the local market when you’re in Costa Rica and try them all!

Of course Costa Rica has the typical tropical fruits that you have in your hometown, like mangoes, bananas, watermelon, lemons, papaya, pineapples, and cantaloupe (though they all will taste fresher and sweeter in Costa Rica!)

Many fruits you’re familiar with will actually look or taste different or be a different size in Costa Rica, including oranges that are green, not orange.

Other popular native fruits include passion fruit, guava, cas, tamarind, avocado, pejibaje, jocotes, mammon chino, and carambola (star fruit).

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Heliconia…also known as Lobster Claws

However, the most common family of flowering plants you’ll see in Costa Rica are called heliconia.

They usually have big and brilliant red, yellow, or orange flowers.

Heliconia that are native to Costa Rica include the Heliconia Rostrata (called ‘the lobster claw’), Heliconia latisphata (‘false bird of Paradise’), Heliconia Psittacorum Andromeda and the Heliconia Pendula.

They’re an essential food source for many species of Costa Rican wildlife, including rainforest hummingbirds.

You might be able to spot Heliconias in your home country, since they are a grown around the world for florists and landscaping.

Look for part two of this blog where we cover more amazing Costa Rican flora, including orchids and some of the most colorfully named, remarkable, and even dangerous plant life on earth!


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