General info


In Costa Rica have been recorded 1400 species of trees and 800 species of ferns (more than in the whole of North America).


[Ochroma pyramidale]. One of the fast growing trees. Native trees are 60 to 90 ft high and 2.5 to 4 ft in diameter. Usually found at lower elevations especially on bottom land soils along streams; also in clearings and cutover forests. Its wood is used in plane models constructions. It is spot among others in Manuel Antonio National Park.


[Brosimum paraense], (Cardinal wood). The tree is of medium height with trunk diameters that average about (2,54*18) and can reach the height of 40 meters. It is very resistant to insects. It is a deep, rich brick-red color. It keeps its color over time and doesn't brown-out as do many of the other red-toned woods. Bloodwood is a hard, dense, heavy wood with a very fine, even texture and takes an excellent finish from the cutter.


In Costa Rica have been recorded 170 species. The majority of bromeliads grown as interior plants are epiphytes. In their native habitats, they attach by special root structures to trunks and branches of trees and derive their moisture and nutrients from the air and rain. Some are called saxicolous because they attach themselves to rocks, while the rest are terrestrial and grow in the ground as most plants do. They developed tanks that hold great quantities of rainwater. They provide homes for spiders, ants, frogs and insects. Most species are grown primarily for their colorful foliage and exotic shapes. Variations in foliage are as wide as those in flowering, and leaves may be green, gray, maroon, spotted or striped. The upper leaves of many species change color when plants are about to flower. Flowers are often small but colorful; however, the showy portion of the inflorescence is frequently made up of brilliantly colored bracts borne below each flower. Their biggest concentration in Costa Rica is placed in Lancaster Botanical Garden (prowince of Cartago).


spanish cedar - [Cedrela odorata]. It is the most commercially important and widely distributed cedar. It can reach the height of 30 meters. The aromatic wood is in high demand in the American tropics because it is naturally termite- and rot-resistant. It is always found naturally on well-drained soils, often but not exclusively on limestone; it tolerates a long dry season but does not flourish in areas of rainfall greater than about 3000 mm or on sites with heavy or waterlogged soils. Individual trees are generally scattered in mixed semievergreen or semi-deciduous forests dominated by other species.

sweet cedar - [Cedrela tonduzii]. It is spot in La Amistad Biosphere Reserve in Costa Rica and in basin of Rio Toro in province of Heredia.

spiny cedar - [Bombacopsis quinatum], (Pochote tree). Medium-sized to large tree, not infrequently 3 ft and sometimes 5 or 6 ft. in diameter; reaches a height of 100 ft. Wide-spreading crown of heavy branches; somewhat irregular bole; generally buttressed. Trunk and larger branches armed with hard sharp prickles.

It occurs in dry forests and is one of favourite places for boa contrictors. It`s a delicacy for the mothes "Arsenura armida". It is spot in Guayabo, Negritos and Pajaros Biological Reserve and on Jaco beach.

Guanacaste tree

[Enterolobium cyclocarpum]. One of the largest trees in the dry forest formation of Costa Rica. It reaches up to 3 m diameter and 40 m in height with a huge spreading crown. The national tree of Costa Rica. It is well-known for its distinctive, thickened, contorted, indehiscent pods which resemble an ear in form. It abounds in Guanacaste province.

Drzewa Gumbo-Limbo

[Bursera simaruba]. It is a medium sized (20 metrs tall), fast-growing tree, with pinnately compound (featherlike) leaves, and attractive reddish bark that peels away in thin flakes to reveal a smooth and sinuous gray underbark. It has a thick trunk (up to 120 cm in diameter) large, irregular branches, and a spreading, rounded crown. Semi-deciduous gumbo-limbo loses all its leaves in early spring just before the new leaves appear. The flowers, blooming in winter in elongate racemes (spikelike clusters with each flower on its own stem), are small and inconspicuous, with 3-5 greenish petals. They are spot in Santa Rosa National Park and Guayabo, Negritos and Pajaros Biological Reserve.


[Haematoxylum campechianum]. It has an important source of red dye. Its name Hematoxylum is derived from two greek words: "aimatos" which means blood, and "xylon" which means wood. It grows in Central America. It can reach 15 meters in height.

Cannonball tree

[Couroupita guianensis]. They have dangling pungent fruits in hard spherical capsules the size of bowling balls, even 30 on each tree. They cannonade down the trunk in a rainstorm and consists of a mass of seeds in greenish pulp. (Indians squeezed a popular brew from that). A tree produces also a pink-white flowers. This trees are the most common in Lomas de Barbudal Biological Reserve.

Sausage tree

[Kigelia afrikana]. It comes from Africa. They are named thus because of the huge fruits (average 0.6m in length and 4kg weight), which hang from long, fibrous stalks. The fruit pods are very fibrous with numerous hard seeds and tend to be inedible to humans as well as being poisonous when unripe. Baked fruits are used to ferment beer and boiled ones yield a red dye. From August to November the fragrant, bell-shaped, deep maroon or claret, green or yellow-veined flowers form on hanging, 6-12in flowered stalks.

Malinche tree

[Delonix regia], (Royal poinciana, flamboyant tree). It comes from Madagascar. It is fast growing tree - about 1,5 meter per year. For several weeks in spring and summer it is covered with exuberant clusters of flame-red flowers, 1.2-12.7 cm across. Even up close the individual flowers are striking: they have four spoon shaped spreading scarlet or orange-red petals about 7.6 cm long, and one upright slightly larger petal (the standard) which is marked with yellow and white. The tree gets 9.1-12.2 m tall, but its elegant wide-spreading umbrella-like canopy can be wider than its height. It grows around Ujarras ruins in province of Cartago.

Golden spoon tree

[Byrsonima crassifolia], (Craboo tree). The tree grows in open pine forests and grassy savannas. It is a slow-growing large shrub or tree to 10 m high or in certain situations, even reaching 20 m; varying in form from round-topped and spreading to narrow and compact; the trunk short or tall, crooked or straight. Young branches are densely coated with russet hairs. The opposite leaves, ovate to elliptic or oblong-elliptic, may be 3.2-17 cm long and 4-7 cm wide, rounded or pointed at the apex, blunt or pointed at the base; leathery, usually glossy on the upper surface and more or less brown- or gray-hairy on the underside. Its fruit is named nance.


[Gunnera insignis], (poor man`s umbrella). It was named after Johann Ernst Gunnerus (1718–1773), Norwegian botanist. It is of Brasilian origin. It resembles the giant rhubarb (and thus it is often called "the rhubarb on drugs"). It stands out with squat rhizome, from which on long, spiny stalks appear stiff, rough leaves up to 2 meters in length and of 3 meters in diameter. Locals cut them to use as umbrella.

They are spot among others in Tapanti National Park and slopes of Poas Volcano.


(ptaki raju). They were named for Helicon, a mountain in Southern Greece. They appear in secondary and cloud forests and wet lowlands. They have long shoots and stand out with fat, two-layered leaves and with clusters of red, yellow and pink flowers. They are represented in Costa Rica by some 30 species. They are cultivated for sale near Guapiles.

Manchineel tree

[Hippomane mancinella], (Manzanillo, Poison guava). It is commonly found on Pacific beaches. It is full of dozens of short branches and elliptical leaves with extraordinary light green polish. Every part of the tree is toxic. The tiny droplets of a sap-like substance float in the air under its branches. It causes people’s bodies to swell. They have poisonous yellow-red fruit resembling a small apple, but their wood is very water resistant and strong, yet flexible.

Cloud forest

(Montagne rainforests). They are characterized by heavy rainfall and persistent condensation due to the upwards deflection of moisture-laden air currents by mountains. Trees are short, gnarled and moss-covered. Leaves of this forest`s plants are often dotted with scores of tiny holes as though gnawed by insects that have given up the ghost after only a few mm. Costa Rica most famous cloud forest are at Monteverde, Pacific slopes of Cordillera Tilaran, slopes of Poas and Barva volcanos. They houses 88% of total number of Costa Rica orchid species. Their common inhabitants are Quetzals.

Rain forest

75 % of their plant species is still to be studied. They have a richer animal and plant life than any other type of forest. It covers 7% of earth surface and encompasses a million species of fauna and flora. Another million is supposed yet to be discovered. Scientists call them "a library of the earliest evolution" or " the biggest genetic reserve on the Earth". They occur in regions where more than 1.800 mm of rainfall annually. There are 90 species of trees per each hectare of rain forests. Life in rainforests is stratified in vertical layers. The upper canopy contains animals which are mainly herbivorous. They rarely descend on earth. The lower layer is filled with small trees, lianas and epiphities. The ground surface layer is littered with branches, twigs and foliage. Most animals here live on insects and fruit, others are carnivorous. In rain forests occur also so called giant trees which stuck out above the forest canopy.

Riparian forest

They adjacent to a stream, river, marsh, or shoreline which form the transition between land and water environments. They improve the biological diversity of surrounding areas. Birds, mammals, and other animals find the food, cover, water, and nesting sites they need as well as corridors and pathways for movement between areas. They prevent erosion processes. They thrive along the entire length of Rio Corobici and in some parts make the canopy.

Dry forest

Forests very common in north-west Costa Rica. The most endangered of all the life zones in Costa Rica. Their trees have short, stout trunks with large flat-topped crowns up to 15 meters above the ground. Beneath is a layer of shrubs with spines and thorns. There are completely lack of epiphities. There is no rain from November through March. Lasy te przetrzebione zostały wskutek pozyskiwania (przez wypalanie) terenów pod pastwiska bydła. In Costa Rica now it is only 2 % of their former range before the arrival of the Spaniards in XVI century. Now there are plans to reintroduce dry forests in Guanacaste National Park. The largest last patch of dry forests in Central America ranges in Santa Rosa National Park.

West Indies mahogany

[Swietenia mahagoni]. Large, semievergreen tree forms a loose, rounded canopy and casts light, dappled shade, suitable for maintaining a lawn beneath. It can reach 75 feet in height with a 50-foot-spread but is more often seen at 40 to 50 feet tall and wide. The dense, strong wood of Mahogany is quite resistant to wind-damage. The five-inch-long, brown, woody fruit capsules hang from slender, fuzzy stalks in winter and split while still on the tree when ripe to release winged seeds.


They thrive at the interface of land and sea and fight tidal erosion and dampen hight waves and winds generated by tropical storms. They rise from the water on interlocking stilt roots. They are halophytes, plants that thrive in salty conditions. Seve to shelter sponges, corals, oysters and other members of the marine community around their roots. In Costa Rica there are 5 species of mangrove trees.

red mangrove - [Rhizophora mangle]. The most easily recognized in Costa Rica. The name comes from its red wood. It is 20-30 m tall, 50-70 cm in diameter with arching stilt roots.5 m high. It is used for cabinetry, construction, piling, poles, posts, shipbuilding, and wharves. They are spot in National Park of Las Baulas and Wildlife Refuge of Curu. Their biggest concentration is in outlet of Rio Sixaola within Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.

black mangrove - [Avicennia germinans]. They can grow to 18 meters in heigth. Their trunks are of 60 cm in diameter. They have narrowly elliptical leaves 11 cm long, 4 cm wide, blunt at tip, entire, thick, leathery. They cope with the lack of air in the mucky substrate by developing vertical extensions (pneumatophores) from their roots which stick above the soil level and (at low tide) accomplish oxygen exchange. They are also capable of withstanding freezing temperatures for up to 12 hours. They are spot in Palo Verde National Park.

white mangrove - [Laguncularia racemosa]. They can grow to 18 meters. They are distinguished by narrow, oval top. It has smooth, oblong, light green leaves with notched tips. Their wood is hard and light-coloured bark (the specie was named for that). The trunk may exhibit aerial roots close to the water. Generally grows in areas with only infrequent tidal flooding The flowers are in terminal spikes and bloom from July to October. It has grooved, almond-shaped fruits that are sometimes viviparous . It`s folk remedy for dysentery.

tea mangrove - [Pelliciera rhizophorae], (pinuelo mangrove). They has pronounced exaggerated buttresses which act as aerators. They ranges only on the pacific side of Costa Rica, among others in Ballena National Marine Park. They are distinguished by large star-shaped flowers and alternates occasionally leaves..

bottonwood mangrove - [Conocarpus erectus]. They grow on the back edges or higher ground within a mangrove swamp. But they are found on a places where no others varietes occur.


pejibaye palm - [Bactris gasipaes], (peach palm). is a multi-stemmed palm tree that can reach up to 20 meters (65 feet) in height. When the tree is an adult, 10 to 15 secondary stems develop, guaranteeing the regeneration of the plant. While not all of these stems produce fruit, they are all used to extract the delicious heart of palm. The male flowers fall after releasing pollen, while the female flower develops into a small red, yellow or orange fruit, measuring around 5 cm in diameter.

cocos palm - [Cocos nucifera]. They have gray trunks topped by a crown of pinately compound yellow-green leaves. Each leaf is 15-17 cms long. Palm to 27 m or more tall, bearing crown of large pinnate leaves; trunk stout, 30-45 cm in diameter, straight or slightly curved, rising from a swollen base surrounded by mass of roots; rarely branched, marked with rings of leaf scars; leaves 2-6 m long. When nuts are cut open and dried, meat becomes copra, which is processed for oil, rich in glycerine and used to make soaps, shampoos, shaving creams, toothpaste lotions, lubricants, hydraulic fluid, paints, synthetic rubber, plastics, margarine, and in ice cream. In Costa Rica their plantations are placed in central pacific coast (Parrita region).

stained glass palm - [Geonoma epetiolata]. It is spot only in very shady places. Mostly it is used as a domestical plant in houses. It used to be considered as non-existed in Costa Rica any more. But lately it has been rediscovered again by scientists from Rara Avis Biological Reserve.

raffia palm - [Raphia farinifera]. Its name derives from Greek word raphis which means needle, sting with reference to its pointed fruits. It is characterised by multiple stems, 2-9 m tall, apically covered with the remains of the leafbases interspersed with long dark fibres. Fruits are large, ovoid, as big as a hen’s egg, pointed and covered with hard, glossy, brown-reddish, imbricate scales. It grows extremely fast and will produce enormous leaves that can reach an unbelievable 20 m in length. Its leaves are employed for the production of raffia, a fibre largely used, especially in floriculture and horticulture, to make very tough ties, as well as a number of woven articles. Jedna z najstarszych na świecie. It covers the coast of Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge and parts of Rio Sierpe basin.

royal palm - [Cheelea rostrado]. It is used for construction of typical Tortuguero region houses. It gave its name for town of Palmares.

viscoyol palm - [Bactris minor], (black palm, Tobago cane). It`s small palm with edible seeds that resemble the black grapes. Tender stems and leaves are covered by big thorns as an effective defense against herbivorous attacks. Its leaves are used in dry season as the fodder. It grows in deciduous dry forests, in Guayabo, Pajaros and Negritos Island Reserve and Carara Biological Reserve and in the forests of Esquinas National Park.


Type of high mountain plants, covering in Costa Rica the surface of 15.000 ha. The moorlands, punctuated by rocks, shrubs and hardy clump grasses, more usually asociated with Andean Heights. They covere the highest peaks of Cordillera Talamanca (Cerro Kamuk, Cerro de la Muerte). (It`s their northernmost range in America). They are often sunk in the fog.


[Erythrina poeppigiana]. Deciduous tree to as much as 25 m tall that rise in San Jose area. Bark is greenish brown. It has trifoliate leaves, 20 - 30 cm long. It is used for living fence posts. Both the shade trees and fence posts can be lopped as green manure, a system in use in Costa Rica. With its handsome orange-red flowers, it is sometimes planted as an ornamental. Unpruned trees grew too large for coffee shade trees. It blooms during the dry season.

Silk cotton tree

[Ceiba pentandra], (Kapok tree). A large deciduous tree of African origin. A very large majestic tree, with a conspicuously buttressed trunk. It tree grows more than 200' tall: with widely spreading branches. The trunk can become more than 9' in diameter. This tree is host to numerous aerial plants, insects, birds, frogs and other animals. All the leaves are shed during the dry season. It is cultivated for kapok. This floss is light and fluffy, resistant to water and decay. It is used as a stuffing in life jackets. This tree is held sacred by the ancient Mayas. It is easily spot in Corcovado National Park.


Most of them are epiphites. They appear on branches and rocks. They receive minerals by buttressed roots and receive a moisture by air roots. Most of orchids are yellow, but there are also pink, velvet, brown, green and white. Their calyxes can be transparent, spotted or striped. Nearly all orchids are pollinated by insects or hummingbirds and it is believed that many may only be pollinated by a single specific specie. On every year, on March in San Jose and on February in San Isidro are organized the orchid fairs. In Costa Rica there are 1.250 species of orchids (the biggest flora of orchids in Central America - more than the whole of Africa and one in ten of all known species worldwide). 88 % of orchid species exists in Costa Rica cloud forests. Their biggest collection is placed in Lancaster Botanical Garden (province of Cartago) and in Monteverde (in the last one 500 species are on display). The Costa Rica record was the discovery of different orchid species growing on a single tree.

guaria morada - [Cattleya skinneri]. National flower of Costa Rica. It is one of the most common orchids. Plants usually grow in wet mountain forests from near sea level to about 1250 m, but they also occur on rocks at higher elevations where rainfall is greater and evaporation is less. It was named after German botanist who after coming to Costa Rica was impressed by pink flowers. Its biggest concentration is placed in Las Pailas and Las Hornilas areas in Rincon de la Vieja National Park.

guaria turrialba - [Cattleya dowiana]. It was discovered in 1850. It has yellow sepals and petals, and with its dark crimson-purple lip veined with gold. It is one of most endangered orchid species in Costa Rica. It is noted for flowering only one day a year.


[Tamarindus indica]. It is a large tropical tree with a short massive trunk, ferny pinnate leaves, small yellow flowers and fat reddish brown pods. The tree can get 27.4 m tall but is usually less than 15.2 m. It has drooping branches and a domed umbrella shaped crown about as wide as the tree's height. The flowers are about 2.5 cm across, pale yellow with purple or red veins. They have five unequal lobes and borne in small drooping clusters.

Frangipani tree

[Plumeria acutifolia], (Temple tree). A deciduous, fleshy-branched shrub/tree. It can grow to 6m or more. The glory of this plant is the large clusters of very fragrant flowers borne at the ends of the branches. The sap from the plant is poisonous. The pointed leaves are long and oval and heavily scented flowers are in shades of white, yellow, orange, pink or red.

© 2004; SLUPSK; Rafal Cezary Piechocinski