Costa Rica’s biodiversity knows no bounds – and I would be remiss if I didn’t give just due to its incredible offering of flowers and plants. Explosions of color are everywhere – and no curator or botanist or gardener have had a hand in propagating most of them – nature has this down.
Let’s start with Costa Rica’s national flower, the orchid. There are over 1500 identified species of this delicate and stunning plant as the moisture laden country provides a perfect habitat. Their “season” is not high until March, but I was fortunate to spot a few beauties during our hikes, boat excursions through the rainforests.
The other well known plant is the Heliconia. It is a favorite of hummingbirds as it has many “bracts” (flower heads) that contain delicious nectar. They can grow from 3 to 30 feet in length. It is also called lobster claw:
Fun Fact: The Heliconia’s bracts are so large that they hide the flower’s nectar from other birds so that only specialized birds (hummingbirds) can get to it.
There were oceans of other rainbow hued flowers all around – I won’t attempt to identify them – just enjoy their glowing beauty:
The above berries remind me of the extremely invasive porcelain berries that grow during the fall in my neighborhood -although pretty they are deadly, killing many native plants in their wake. Here is what they look like:
Back to Costa Rica’s floral bounty:
There is one plant that made me laugh – at first. It is called the Solanum Mammosum. I thought its fruit looked like little teddy bear heads:
The Latin name refers to the fruit’s likeness to a woman’s breast – it is also called the cow’s udder plant. It is a relative of the eggplant, bell pepper, hot pepper, tomato and potato. While they are all part of the group of plants called nightshades, this plant has one major difference.
It is quite poisonous.
Even its stems announce a warning:
There are some locals who actually eat the unripe fruit or drink the juice (the poison becomes more toxic as the plant ripens) as they believe it has medicinal value. Some use the sap topically to soothe skin irritations such as athletes foot and it is also used to treat coughs and reduce fever.
I’ll stick to tomatoes.