Most of Costa Rica’s forests can be primarily classified into three groups; rainforests, cloud forests and topical dry forests. And while rainforests are the most common habitat, the cloud forests of Costa Rica are a magnificent sight to behold. Rainforests can be found in the southwest of the country as well as in the Atlantic lowlands, with towering trees and looping vines that create a magical wispy environment. Receiving a high annual rainfall, these dense forests are characterized by a wealth of plant and animal life. Rainforests are located at lower elevations, and as a result, they tend to be much warmer, especially during the dry season. Cloud forests, on the other hand, are usually located at much higher elevations, and are much cooler. This difference in temperature contributes to the mist and fog that is often visible in cloud forests, as the milder temperatures slow the evaporation process. However, despite being a little cooler than rainforests, cloud forests are very humid. Cloud forests generate water by capturing water from fog (surface clouds). Water condenses on the leaves and branches of cloud forest trees, epiphytes and lichen, drips to the forest floor, and enters streams. The tropical evergreen cloud forests on the slopes of the Cordillera de Talamanca in Costa Rica’s southern highlands is of vital importance both as a source of drinking and irrigation water to the main cities in the Valle Central and as a bastion of many endemic species. This is not meant to be a comprehensive survey of the plants in the cloud forest, concentrating instead on important and noteworthy plants in this ecosystem.
The garden at Relais de la Reine is concentrated on succulents and cactus and is one of the more remarkable collections I have seen. They have a collection of the Malagasy succulents Didierea and Alluauda from the famous “Spiny Forest”, a beautiful collection of indigenous Aloe and Kalanchoe, a collection of rare and unusual euphorbia from the Americas and Africa and an equally amazing collection of unusual cactus with the very rare Brasiliopuntia cactus. You will be forgiven if all these names just went over your head, this post will focus on pictures of these unusual plants with a minimal description. Even if you don’t know their names, these plants are something you will not want to miss. The Spiny Forest in the south of Madagascar is a world of spiky octopus trees and swollen baobabs, and almost all its species exist only in Madagascar.
On our way back from Darwin Falls we decided to stop in Panamint Springs for what my friend Steve said was the best steak in Death Valley. While it is a small place it actually is a small family run restaurant, campground and resort with fabulous views of Death Valley. Panamint Springs Resort is a rustic, western-style, resort located in beautiful Panamint Valley in Death Valley National Park that provides lodging, camping and RV services, a restaurant and bar, and a gas station with a well stocked general store. Marvelous views of distant sand dunes and the soaring 11,000 foot high Panamint Mountains complete the setting for leisure dining and relaxation. The resort is located at the western end of Death Valley National Park.
At the Larco museum in Peru, they had a collection of the most unusual cacti I have ever seen. Earlier in cactus taxonomy, Cereus was a name that had been applied to nearly all known cactus species that were ribbed, columnar plants. Many of these plants have since been moved out into separate genera. Consequently, the 30 or so plants that remain in the Cereus group are largely plants that have not been moved out of the genus rather than plants that have been included because they fit the description of Cereus. This inclusion-by-lack-of-exclusion makes for a very messy and unsatisfactory grouping. The name Cereus peruvianus has been applied to both C. hildmannianus and C. repandus which are both recognized as legitimate species today. The trouble is, neither of them resemble the many plants that we see labeled as Cereus peruvianus.
Cacti and other succulents have long held a fascination to people from all walks of life and all parts of the world. Their bizarre and fantastic shapes, their beautiful flowers and colorful leaves have long appealed to us. Of course in Las Vegas and the American Southwest, they are common but they grow all over the world. Growing them in New Zealand can be a challenge; but with careful planning, anyone can have a gorgeous cactus and succulent garden of their own. Given the tropical greenery all over New Zealand you might be surprised to find the number of people with a passion for these plants. You will find cacti and succulents on window sills, in green houses and in huge garden displays. As an aside, to show the popularity of succulents, Lisa’s daughter had a wedding without flowers, only succulents.