Donna PorterIt's a Wonderful World of Plants

In Tribute to Our Trees

By Donna Porter

In the wake of one of the fiercest storms that our little area of paradise has seen in decades is the destruction, disfigurement and removal of many of our grandest and loveliest trees.  Obviously, a large fallen tree or tree limb can cause severe damage to structures, cars and people, and I hope that none of you, Quepolandians, or visitors to our area, experienced any of these misfortunes.

Today, one week after the storm, the sounds of chainsaws and falling trees still fill the air and we continue to see dramatic changes in our local landscape and forests due to the high winds (or whatever natural phenomena occurred that night) that is heartbreaking.  We humans, instinctively, do not miss something until it is gone, and I think that will be the case with some of our lost trees.  Some folks, however, may be rejoicing having gained instant, hassle (MINAE) – free opened vistas of the ocean or mountains, increased sunlight or resulting less debris and fallen leaves to deal with around your homes or hotels due to tree losses, but I believe the loss of their benefits to our environment, landscape and other native habitat is nothing to celebrate.  Their scattered absence for their welcomed shade, their inherent protection from the winds, their veils of privacy from neighbors, and the birds that perch upon and nest within their boughs while monkeys perform their acrobatic stunts along their routes of travel will eventually be realized.

Looking for the silver lining in this dark cloud, there are now areas that have been opened-up for the replacement of other sun-loving plant life, and/or the addition of more sustainable and/or desirable tree species.  Long time Manuel Antonio resident and tree advocate, Barry Biesanz, is generously assisting in this effort of tree replacement by offering  free, native trees to anyone who has the desire to replace tree losses on your own little piece of paradise.  Barry (who has a wealth of information on native trees) has grown numerous, native trees species in his nursery that are better adapted to our area, and therefore should give you their best “performance”.  Barry specifically grows species that are most desirable for attracting monkeys, birds and other wildlife. The species he is offering include:  Psidium guajava/ Guayaba/Guava;  Hymenaea courbaril/ Guapinol/Stinking toe; Mrycinthes spp. (no common name found but is a hardwood that is native to MA National Park and exhibits huge buttresses), and fruiting species of Ficus/Figs. For more info contact Barry at 2289-4337.

One handsome tree that we all love for its continuous display of  large orange flowers, Spathodea campanulata/Llama del Bosque/African Tulip Tree has, unfortunately, won the un-official  award for the least wind resistant tropical tree.  Researchers at the University of Florida have this tree on their list of  lowest wind resistance, and I can personally attest to this.  There were two, very large Llama del Bosques that uprooted and fell very close to my house, one, a mere 3 meters from my car.

Be cautioned that there are no trees that are completely wind resistant, but if you are considering replanting, the University of Florida researchers have also concluded that Palm trees, overall, exhibit more wind resistance than the woody, dicot species.  I can also attest to their findings that Roystonea elata/Royal Palm, ranks high in wind resistance.  I have three of these palms very close (1-3 meters) to my house, and while others trees were crashing down all around the night of the storm, these three remained proudly. and fully, intact.  The U of FL list also includes Veitchia merrill/Christmas Palm; Livistonia chinensis/Chinese Palm; Cocus nucifera/Coconut Palm as large palm species that have high wind resistance.  If you prefer to replant with woody trees, Bursera simarouba/Gumbo Limbo; Swietenia mahagoni/West Indian Mahogany and Enterolobium cyclocarpum/Guanacaste rank high on the U of FL list for wind resistant tropical trees.

Let this hair-raising episode of Mother Nature’s force also be a reminder and lesson to us all when determining the location of new trees and future building sites, but do not let it discourage us from continuing to add green to our world, or encourage us to fearfully and hastily remove healthy tree specimens.  If feasible, take stock of and assess the health of your properties’ trees, at least the ones closest to structures. Prune limbs that are overhanging  roofs or parking areas, or that add too much weight towards a downhill slope or structure or are dead and rotten. Proper pruning of a tree, whether in its formative years or even  in its more mature stages of growth, is wise and can save you from future headaches – literally.

We are, undoubtedly, at the mercy of Mother Nature and those of us who live here have chosen to do so amongst the abundance of the trees of the rainforest. Trees are here to serve us through their many beneficial purposes. They are our essential companions on this planet and it is our duty, as stewards of this earth and of are chosen location,  to care for them and replenish them when necessary. Imagine, if you can, an entire earth void of trees.  Not a pretty picture is it?   Not likely to happen in our lifetime, but we are here for only a minute portion of time. Please, replant for the future.  Your children, and future generations, will thank you.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all of our fallen, majestic beauties (and even the little scrawny ones) and for all future trees, with this endearing poem about – trees.

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

Trees by Joyce Kilmer (1886 – 1918)

(Note: trees mentioned for planting are those that  I have either seen or have purchased in Costa Rica.  Seeds and/or approx 18” cuttings, can also be used for re-planting).

Donna is a Horticulturist and has been living and working in Manuel Antonio for 6 years.  She consults, designs, installs and maintains gardens for private properties and also develops botanical trails. Donna is the founder and first Director of the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks and is pursuing the development of a botanical garden in, and for, the Quepos area. [email protected],  2777-5149