Our Plants

Illustrated Review of some Garden Plants

  Enterolobium cyclocarpum

Enterolobium cyclocarpum

In this review you will find information about some of the most remarkable plants in our organic garden. We mainly highlight the beauty and the use of our native plants. We do this because we value their ability to adapt to the particular climatic conditions of this region and their significance for wildlife species diets; also their rarity such as "Cardon", an endemic species in Costa Rica, specifically from Guanacaste, which makes it unique to this part of the planet.
We have also included some other introduced plant species whose characteristics you may want to know, we also encourage you to tour the garden and view the many other species listed in the report.

Glossary (condition of species)

  • Native: species that grow in the geographical area where it originated. Their presence in the region is the result of natural phenomena without human intervention.
  • Introduced: originating from another geographical area, but it grows on the site due to crop or human introduction.
  • Endemic: originating from and unique to that place (does not exist anywhere else).
  • Naturalized: originating from elsewhere but adapted to the natural environment a long time ago

Paradise-tree

(Simarouba glauca)

 
 

Distribution: Native to South Florida, South America and the Antilles

Natural history: This tree has a highly developed, radical system that helps prevent soil erosion. It also provides support for microbiological life within the soil, promotes water uptake and thanks to its evergreen treetop it converts solar energy into biochemical energy all year round. It adapts well to sandy soils and improves soil fertility. Its flowers are pollinated by bees and their seeds are dispersed by birds and gray iguanas.

Uses: The ripe fruits with olive like appearances are edible. The fruit pulp is sweet but slightly astringent. The seed kernel produces edible oil and is useful to make soap. The bitter infusion of the bark has been used as amebicidal, analgesic, antibacterial and as a tonic. This plant can also be grown and used as a hedge.

Common name:

Paradise-tree, Bitterwood

Scientific name:     

Simarouba glauca

Family: Simaroubaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Sea almond

(Terminalia catappa)

 
 

Distribution: This plants origin is uncertain. It was naturalized in Africa, Australia, New Guinea, Southeast Asia and Micronesia in the Indian sub-continent. More recently the plant was introduced to America.

Natural history: The seed is an almond covered by a fiber almond that helps the seed to float and be dispersed by water. Parrots and parakeets eat this plants fruits. Its oval leaves turn to a pink-red-yellow color before falling.

Uses: Because of the dense shade that its large leaves produce, it is widely cultivated as an ornamental tree. Its wood is reddish, very solid and waterproof. Its seeds are edible when fully ripe; its flavor is similar to commercial almonds. Thanks to the richness of its leaves and its bark, it is used in many natural medicines for various purposes such as colds, asthma, headache, travel nausea, rheumatism, etc. Fallen leaves are used to treat liver disease and the infusion made from the leaves is prescribed against dysentery or diarrhea. Keeping Almendro leaves in an aquarium can lower the level of acidity (pH) and the content of heavy metals in water and it is active against some parasites and pathogenic bacteria. It is believed that it also prevents the formation of fungus on fish eggs. In Costa Rica almond leaves are used to wrap food and some sweets, instead of using plastic to keep the flavors and quality of food, some people think that the Almendro adds a special taste and smell of wrapped food in its leaves.

Common name:

Sea almond

Scientific name:     

Terminalia catappa

Family: Combretaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Introduced specie

 

Mexican Alvaradoa

(Alvaradoa amorphoides)

 
 

Distribution: It is naturally distributed from Florida, Mexico and The Antilles to South America.

Natural history: This tree serves as a host plant for butterflies of the Eurema genus. In Florida this species is endangered.

Uses: Medicinal tree used in southeastern Mexico to relieve itching and overall skin conditions such as pimples, scabies, ringworm and dermatitis. The tree is also planted for ornamental purposes because of its beautiful inflorescences that look like squirrel tails from which its common name in Costa Rica "Ardillo" (Squirrel) comes from. Its wood is easy to work with, preserve and dry. It is used in cabinetmaking due to its high natural durability.

Common name:

Mexican Alvaradoa

Scientific name:     

Alvaradoa amorphoides

Family: Picramniaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Mexican logwood

(Haematoxylum brasiletto)

 
 

Distribution: Dry forests of the Pacific region, from Mexico to Venezuela and The Antilles.

Natural history: Its most distinctive feature is its deeply fluted trunk. Its seeds are dispersed by wind so they are flat and slightly winged. In the natural environment usually several trees grow together forming forests of "Palo de Brasil" very attractive and conspicuous due to the beauty of its bark. These forests were located in coastal areas of the Central American Pacific.

Uses: The wood of this tree has been used to fabricate bows for stringed musical instruments. It has natural medical properties including uses for tuberculosis, dysentery, as an astringent, toothpaste and inflammation and stomach pain relief. The heartwood is used to dye wool and cotton and a pink coloring is also extracted from it for pharmaceutical and toothpaste uses. In Costa Rica in 1830 (9 years after the independence from Spain) the "Palo Brazil" became one of the first export products, even before coffee. The tree was very precious among the bourgeois classes because of its red dye for clothing. Trees were mainly bought by English speculators; forests of brazilwood near the beach were quickly sold for trade and trees farther away from the coast stopped being attractive because of transportation difficulty. Thus, this economic activity was short-lived and quickly replaced by coffee production.

Common name:

Mexican logwood

Scientific name:     

Haematoxylon brasiletto

Family: Fabaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Star fruit

(Averrhoa carambola)

 
 

Distribution: Native to Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka.

Natural history: Tropical evergreen shrub with yellow, green-yellow or orange fruit. The fruit is pentagon shaped with 5 or 6 longitudinal ridges. People know it as the star tree because its fruit forms 5-pointed stars when it is transversely cut.

Uses: Its pulp is juicy, slightly fibrous and acidic. A delicious juice is prepared from the fruits and star cuts are used to decorate drinks. It is not recommended for people with chronic kidney disease as it can be toxic for sufferers of this condition. Animals, especially monkeys love to eat these juicy fruits.

Common name:

Star fruit

Scientific name:     

Averrhoa carambola

Family: Oxalidaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Introduced specie

 

Kapok tree

(Ceiba pentandra)

 
 

Distribution: From Mexico to northern South America.

Natural history: Its bark is covered with thorns. This tree loses its leaves during dry season as an adaptation strategy and it is believed that its greenish bark helps photosynthesis. Its flowers are an important source of nectar and pollen for bees; it is pollinated by bats attracted by the scent of the flowers at night.

Uses: The natural fiber of this trees seeds is one of the most used resources of this plant. Its silky fiber is soft, breathable, non-toxic and hypoallergenic; it is also lighter than cotton. The fiber has float-ability and resistance to water saturation, therefore it has been grown commercially for many different uses. Seeds also produce a kind of oil which has been used as soap as well as fertilizer. Its wood is porous and very light so it is not ideal for woodwork; however, it has been marketed as "plywood" and is ideal for making rafts. The decoction of the bark has been used in traditional medicine as a diuretic, aphrodisiac, for the treatment of headaches and to treat diabetes.

Common name:

Kapok tree

Scientific name:     

Ceiba pentandra

Family: Malvaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Cornizuelo

(Vachellia cornígera)

 
 

Distribution: From Mexico to Colombia.

Natural history: The most outstanding feature of this plant is the symbiotic relationship that has developed between it and other living beings. This plant maintains a very close relationship with a species of ant from the Pseudomyrmex genus. The ant provides protection such as preventing predators eating the plants leaves, preventing parasitic plants living the plant or even cleaning the surrounding undergrowth area of the plant. This plant offers the ant all the necessary resources it needs such home and shelter, it also provides fleshy bodies of protein, nectar (sourced from sugar and water), plus a very specialized stinger shaped horn that the ant drills into and uses as a place to live. Another symbiotic relationship of this plant is with bacteria that live in its roots, this bacterium obtains nitrogen from the air and shares it with the cornizuelo plant to make amino acids, proteins and thus be able to grow in poor nitrogen environments. Some birds also take advantage of the protection this trees ants offer and build their nests on this plant. This shrub can reach a height of up to 5 meters. The plant flowers from June to December and produces fruits from December to February. These fruits are edible.

Uses: The horn like structures are used to make handicrafts and jewelry along with seeds and other natural products.

Common name:

Cornizuelo

Scientific name:     

Vachellia cornígera

Family: Fabaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

White Flower, the Hawaiian necklace

(Plumeria rubra)

 
 

Distribution: Mexico to Colombia, Caribbean Islands.

Natural history: This tree/shrub is very striking due to its color and the scent of its flowers. Its leaves are simple, large and grow together at the end of the branches and their sap is milky. Flowers can be seen during the dry season. It grows well on the beach and on cliffs. Its flowers can be white, pink and yellow. Its flowers are pollinated by moths.

Uses: The wood is used in some areas of Central America to make furniture. The beautiful flowers are used as decoration mainly in spas and for weddings. Its sap is used to treat boils on the skin. In Guanacaste, the bark from the trunk is quickly grilled and then used to weld broken or cracked bones, it is then applied with honey and bandages.

Common name:

White Flower

Scientific name:     

Plumeria rubra

Family: Apocynaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Bastard cedar

(Guazuma ulmifolia)

 
 

Distribution: From Mexico to Brazil and Antilles.

Natural history: Important feeding tree for many wild animals such as deer, tapirs, peccaries and agoutis. Its seed is dispersed by birds and mammals.

Uses: Its nectar is valuable for Beekeeping. Its fruits and flowers are edible and have been used for the manufacture food, sweets and drinks. Its flowers and fruits are also used to feed livestock. All parts of this plant are used as varied medicinal treatments; for example, the infusion of bark cures diarrhea; it is also use for soap-making. Its wood is used to make handcrafted furniture.

Common name:

Bastard cedar

Scientific name:     

Guazuma ulmifolia

Family: 

Malvaceae (Sterculiaceae)

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Soursop

(Annona muricata)

 
 

Distribution: Uncertain origin. It is believed that its origin may be in the Antilles or Colombia where many varieties are found. Now widely distributed in the American tropics, it has been introduced to Australia, China and Polynesia.

Natural history: An evergreen tree. Its fruits are a large source of food and hydration for many birds, squirrels and other mammals. Its flowers are pollinated by small insects such as beetles and ants.

Uses: The fruit is large (2-4 kilos) and has a fleshy and juicy, white or slightly yellow pulp. The pulp has a sour taste but is sweet in the areas surrounding the seeds; this pulp is edible and is also used to prepare juices and ice cream. Consuming this plants fruits provides an organism with mineral salts, potassium, phosphorus, iron, calcium, lipids, vitamin C and provitamin A. Its leaves can be consumed as tea and the crushed seeds work as natural repellent when applied to the skin.

Common name:

Soursop

Scientific name:     

Annona muricata

Family: Annonaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Guanacaste, Ear tree

(Enterolobium cyclocarpum)

 
 

Distribution: From Mexico to Venezuela.

Natural history: Their pods are coveted by cattle; which are usually grazing peacefully under the trees that are losing their pods. They mostly swallow the seeds whole and then the cows waste fertilizes them. This is one of the reasons why there are a lot of small tress in barnyards and cattle herds.

Uses: National tree of Costa Rica. Its name originates from the Indian word Huanacaxtle "tree ears" because of the shape of the pods containing the seeds. Natives had the belief that this tree could hear. The extract from the pods was used as laundry soap. The wood is beautiful and its seeds are used to manufacture handicrafts. It is used as a shade tree for livestock in agricultural areas.

Common name:

Guanacaste, Ear tree

Scientific name:     

Enterolobium cyclocarpum

Family: Fabaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Fig Tree

(Ficus goldmanii)

 
 

Distribution: tropical and subtropical areas around the world.

Natural history: Its most distinctive feature is its curious fruit, the "fig", a small hollow sphere internally lined by hundreds of tiny flowers. These flowers are pollinated by a kind of specialized wasp that meets its reproductive cycle within this fruit. The cycle begins when a female wasp enters the fig and lays its eggs inside the guts of the structure, the female wasp dies immediately. A day after the male wasp comes to fruit, drills through a channel and fertilizes the eggs which were there already; the male who cannot fly off due to its weakness dies serving as food for other predators. The hatching of fertilized eggs coincides with the maturation of the male flowers, so when these wasps go out, they collect pollen on their legs and take it to the next fruit where this cycle starts again. These trees provide a rich and consistent fruit production in the forest that encourage the food chain. One can observe flocks of swallows on their tree tops preying on wasps which are seeking the fruits for reproduction. Dragonflies and ants are also predators of these wasps. When the fruits ripe they are also an important food source for wildlife such as monkeys, bats and birds. The particular growth of this tree’s trunks create a series of niches and habitats for different types of animals and plants.

Uses: This species is not currently utilized, but in the past natives made paper from the trees bark. This plant is part of the same family as the edible fig plant which is commercially exploited.

Common name:

Fig Tree

Scientific name:     

Ficus goldmanii

Family: Moraceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Ylang Ylang

(Cananga odorata)

 
 

Distribution: Native to Burma and Java, but distributed in the tropics.

Natural history: Fast-growing tree with flowers all throughout the year. This flowers fragrance is very strong, particularly at night. This tree’s fruit is eaten by squirrels, monkeys and birds which, in turn, help disperse seeds.

Uses: An essential oil is extracted from its flowers and used for aromatherapy purposes. It is believed to improve hypertension, it normalizes sebum secretion, reduces skin spots and prevents skin stretch marks. It is considered an aphrodisiac, sedative and anti-stress remedy. This essential oil is widely used in perfumery and cosmetics. The oil has a euphoric and sedative effect on the nervous system; it can help in cases of anxiety, stress, shock, fear and panic. Its aphrodisiac qualities can be useful in impotence and frigidity. The oil could have a calming effect on the skin and its stimulating effect on the scalp may promote hair growth. Its oil is also used in food and beverages and its wood is used as firewood or to build canoes or matches. In Indonesia ropes are made with the fibrous bark. The essential oil from flowers contains caryophyllene, used to treat hepatitis, and has a wide range of other medicinal uses. Seeds can be used to treat fever. In Indonesia, flowers are used against malaria and leaves are rubbed on the skin to treat itching. Dried flowers and bark are also used for medicinal purposes.

Common name:

Ylang Ylang

Scientific name:     

Cananga odorata

Family: Annonaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Introduced species

 

Calabash Tree

(Crescentia cujete)

 
 

Distribution: native to Mexico and Central America.

Natural history: This tree has the ability to grow in hard, compacted and poorly drained soils so it is an excellent competitor in extreme environments where other plants cannot grow well. It can even withstand fire. The flowers that grow on the trunks are pollinated by bats.

Uses: The fruits are round and as strong as pumpkins and contain many seeds in a nutritious pulp. This pulp can be used to stimulate other seed germination. Seeds can be eaten, roasted or ground in juices. The hard, round fruits have been widely used as containers to drink water, to cook or to make crafts.

Common name:

Calabash Tree

Scientific name:     

Crescentia cujete

Family: Bignoniaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Jocote

(Spondias purpurea)

 
 

Distribution: Tropical America, from Mexico to Brazil.

Natural history: This plant spreads thanks to its seed. Animals disperse the seed when they eat the fruits; it is also spread by cuttings.

Uses: Planted as a fruit tree and as a hedgerow. Its fruits are composed of a fleshy edible layer that covers the seed. When green they are eaten with salt and when ripe they have a bittersweet taste. Young shoots of the plant are also edible. The decoction of the bark is used to treat anemia, gastrointestinal diseases (amoebiasis, diarrhea, dysentery, stomach pain and gastritis), fever, colds, conjunctivitis and sore kidneys. Topically, it is used treat ulcers, inflamed gums and scabies. The root is used topically for infections, rashes and headache. The bark and fruit are credited with analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and diuretic properties.

Common name:

Jocote

Scientific name:     

Spondias purpurea

Family: Anacardiaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Flamboyant

(Delonix regia)

 
 

Distribution: Native to Madagascar but now naturalized and widely distributed in the American tropics.

Natural history: Tree up to 20 meters high with a widespread horizontally canopy. It produces flowers during the months of May and June. The fruits remain hanging on the tree for almost a year.

Uses: Widely used as an ornamental species in parks and public areas because its delicate foliage red and orange colors are appealing. Its common name "Malinche" owes its name to a famous Mexican indigenous woman "The Malinche". This woman was very beautiful and used to wear red like that of the trees flowers. La Malinche was a Mayan slave since childhood and then became a slave to the Spanish when they defeated the Mayas; she soon learned Spanish and thus became a translator, informer and guide to the Spaniards in the conquest of Tenochtitlan (1521) for which she was judged as a betrayer to her people.

Common name:

Flamboyant

Scientific name:     

Delonix regia

Family: Fabaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Introduced species

 

Mammon

(Melicoccus bijugatus)

 
 

Distribution: Intertropical American zone.

Natural history: Its fruits are a round stone fruit and 2-4 cm diameter. The fruits have a thin green shell and contain a thin seed surrounded by a gelatinous and edible juicy pulp with a bittersweet flavor. These fruits are rich in iron and phosphorus. The flowers are rich in nectar and appreciated by hummingbirds and bees. The honey produced is somewhat dark but it has a pleasant taste.

Uses: Its fruits are edible and highly prized by people and animals. In Capitán Suizo they are eaten by the howler monkeys. The toasted seed has a cashew like flavor. With its pulp, craft beer or liquor can be prepared. A drink containing the ground seed together and the pulp is prepared to kill parasites in children. Its main use is as a fruit; however, its wood has a good diameter and it is even used for interior woodwork. It also has traditional medicine uses. Drinking the leaf decoction with salt is used to treat nervous disorders and fevers. Gargling the juice of the macerated leaves is used for pain and throat infections.

Syrup or tea from the roasted and ground seed is taken for diarrhea. The leaves are often scattered in homes where there are fleas, and it is said that these fleas are attracted by the leaves, which should then be thrown out of the house.

Common name:

Mammon

Scientific name:     

Melicoccus bijugatus

Family: Sapindaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Mango

(Mangifera indica L)

 
 

Distribution: Originally from India but widely planted in tropics.

Natural history: This tree is a very strong and aggressive species when in competition with other plant species, it even resists forest fires. There are many varieties of mango with different characteristics so shape, size, color, flavor and amount of fiber vary. The most popular varieties are the species chosen to export; they are more productive in economic terms.

Uses: The fruit is very precious; green and tender it is eaten with salt or prepared in "ceviches" and marinated with lemon and salt (one of the main cravings of pregnant women in regions where it is grown). When ripe, fruit is consumed or used in many recipes such as juices, desserts, jams, sauces, etc. Mango is an antioxidant for its richness in acids, vitamin C and vitamin A. Anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties are also attributed because it is also rich in flavonoids. The infusion of the leaves and bark is used as a wound disinfectant. Chewing the leaves strengthens teeth and acts against mouth blisters; direct application of tree resin is also used for this purpose. The infusion of the bark is used in the treatment of malaria and rinsing the hair with this decoction can help strengthen hair and prevent it from falling.

Common name:

Mango

Scientific name:     

Mangifera indica L

Family: Anacardiaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Introduced and naturalized specie

 

Nance

(Byrsonima crassifolia)

 
 

Distribution: Originally from the tropical regions of America.

Natural history: It is a very hardy specie, it resists drought well and it also grows in acidic soils and displays a twisted growth on its branches, it develops well in stony or sandy soils as well.

Uses: Its small yellow fruit is edible and is also used for the preparation of artisanal wine. Its flavor is sweet when fruits are ripe; however, it leaves a bitter aftertaste. The medicinal use most frequently given to this plant is against diarrhea. But it is also used for other gastrointestinal disorders such as dysentery, stomach pain, indigestion, poor digestion, bile and constipation. To treat these conditions the bark is consumed in decoction. It is used in gynecological problems such as womb infection and inflammation of the ovaries and it is also applied to skin conditions. It is used to wash wounds when cooked. Other medicinal uses that this plant can be used for are: kidney disease, colds, diabetes and as a tonic. Antipyretic and astringent properties have also been attributed to this plant. Its effectiveness is due to the astringent action of the tannin it contains.

Common name:

Nance

Scientific name:     

Byrsonima crassifolia

Family: Malpighiaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Spiny cedar

(Bombacopsis quinata)

 
 

Distribution: From southern Honduras to Colombia and Venezuela.

Natural history: The shaft is completely covered with thorns, there is a theory that these thorns were the natural defense of this species against their main predators (extinct megafauna). Leaf fall begins in November and renewal begins in late April. Flowering occurs during dry season from February to April, when trees are leafless. Fruits can be seen in February, March and August.

Uses: Its wood is soft and appealing. It is used for moldings, door frames and windows and quality furnishings. Leaves and flower stamens are edible. Farmers use them as living fences because of their fast reproduction.

Common name:

Spiny Cedar

Scientific name:     

Bombacopsis quinata

Family: 

Malvaceae (Bombacaceae)

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Savannah Oak

(Tabebuia rosea)

 
 

Distribution: Native species to the tropical forests of America.

Natural history: Its seed dispersal is done with the help of the wind so the seeds are winged.

Uses: Widely used as an ornamental tree for its beautiful blooming process. The tree’s  pink flowers decorate the tree and the ground after they falling. The infusion of the tree’s leaves is used against fever. The boiled bark is used for diabetes, malaria, typhoid and parasites. The wood is used in interior decoration as fine furniture, flooring, cabinets, decorative plates, joinery and for wheels for carts, crafts, boxes, packaging and boatbuilding.

Common name:

Savannah Oak

Scientific name:     

Tabebuia rosea

Family: Bignoniaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Saíno

(Caesalpinia eriostachys)

 
 

Distribution: Native from Mexico to Costa Rica.

Natural history: The most striking aspect of the tree is its trunk with its abundant bumps and depressions from the base to the thicker branches. Its gray bark peels off in large plates. The trunk forms grooves which are used as shelter by some animals. Its inflorescence, or clusters of yellow flowers and dark coffee colored buttons, are open from the bottom to the top; its fruits are dry and hard legumes that mechanically disperse seeds when open through propelling themselves.

Uses: Its yellow and exquisite flowers can be used for ornamental purposes. This flora is widely used in Central America for its high quality wood and hedgerows. Strains can re-sprout when cut at certain height. The wood is used locally for lumber, beams, pitchforks and posts. This plant is not foraged for consumption, even eating the seeds can cause paralysis in animals.

Common name:

Saíno

Scientific name:     

Caesalpinia eriostachys

Family: Fabaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Tamarindo

(Tamarindus indica L)

 
 

Distribution: It is native to Africa yet now common in the tropics.

Natural history: Medium-sized to large evergreen tree. It is very long-lived but has a slow growth rate. It serves as food for deer, agoutis, and other wildlife, since its fruit contains a sweet and sour pulp around the seeds.

Uses: The pulp of this tree’s fruit is commonly used in the preparation of juices, sauces and for seasoning food in mostly Indian, Asian and Latin American cuisine. Its pulp has medicinal properties as an antipyretic, antiscorbutic, uric acid and for aiding cholesterol. The pulp, leaves and bark have medicinal applications while the leaves are traditionally used in tea to reduce fever caused by malaria. This tree is also used to treat some digestion and stomach problems and is an effective laxative, which can help in cases of constipation. It works as a natural sleeping pill but only very mildly. "Tamarindo Beach" got its name from this tree.

Common name:

Tamarindo

Scientific name:     

Tamarindus indica L.

Family: Fabaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Introduced specie

 

Yellow bells

(Tecoma stans)

 
 

Distribution: Endemic to the Americas from Argentina to the southwestern United States.

Natural history: Its pollination is mainly by hummingbirds but it also attracts bees. Seed dispersal is carried by the wind so this plant’s seeds are therefore winged; they are released when elongated capsules that contain them open.

Uses: This tree is planted as an ornamental structure because of its beautiful yellow flowers, which are even more visible when the tree loses its leaves in the dry season. The fine, dense wood is also highly valued and is of a pale yellow color, flat fibers and of medium hardness. The root is used as a substitute for hops in making beer. Wood, leaves and seeds have insecticidal properties against armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda, Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). The wood from this tree is used for carpentry and turnery. The branches are used to make crates, wood for furniture, canoes and bows. As natural medicine this plant has 54 different uses and there 56 chemical components for this plant. Some uses include the treatment of anemia, uric acid, asthma, inflammation, dengue, analgesic, against amoebas, toothache, antipyretic, syphilis, tonic, diabetes, heart disease, skin, gastrointestinal, liver issues, respiratory problems, urinary problems, gynecological issues, anorexia, anthelmintic, diuretic and many more. It is also used for honey production in beekeeping.

Common name:

Yellow bells

Scientific name:     

Tecoma stans

Family: Bignoniaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Turk Cap

(Malvaviscus arboreus)

 
 

Distribution: From Mexico to Brazil.

Natural history: Bush approximately 4 meters high, evergreen and fast-growing. The nectar of its flowers attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Sometimes some beetles bore the base of the flowers stealing the nectar before hummingbirds do.

Uses: Widely used as ornamental shrubs and hedges due to its beautiful flowers or red buds.

Common name:

Turk Cap

Scientific name:     

Malvaviscus arboreus

Family: Malvaceae

Type: Tree

Condition: Native specie

 

Piper

(Piper tuberculatum)

 
 

Distribution: Tropical America.

Natural history: Small shrub that presents very particular inflorescences in the form of spikes.

Uses: This species has been studied in South America because its substances can be used as biocides against pests such as the sugar cane driller (Diatraea saccharalis) that affects cane plantations. The crushed leaves have been also used in the field as a natural repellent because of its aroma of anise. Other species of this genus are used as spices including the well-known black pepper.

Common name:

Piper

Scientific name:     

Piper tuberculatum

Family: Piperaceae

Type: Bush

Condition: Native Bush

 

Coffee

(Coffea arabica)

 
 

Distribution: It is believed that it is originally from Ethiopia, but is now a commercial plant widely distributed in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia and China, as well as in some Caribbean islands.

Natural history: There are about 30 species of coffee and these plants grow in many different climates, however, thanks to experimenting with crop worldwide and for over 100 years, its cultivation has been specialized. Focus for cultivation is on the best variety for its flavor, its production (Coffea arabica) and location, being located in the best farmlands (high, tropical and rich volcanic soil areas).

Uses: Undoubtedly one of the most important plants for the history of Costa Rica. Before its cultivation, the country had a subsistence agricultural model. During the late eighteenth century the country begun to grow coffee and the government saw, in the exportation of this crop, hope for development of the economy after independence from Spain. This lead the government to implement all kinds of incentives for its production.

That is how the economic, social, political and cultural development of Costa Rica, as an independent state, grew based on the commercial cultivation of coffee. With the first crop exports to Europe the infrastructure to transport crops started to develop with the construction of roads, bridges and ports and the importation of all kinds of European products also started. Currently the economy, production and exports of Costa Rica have diversified a lot and coffee production does not have the same importance as it had in the past. However, the cultivation of coffee, leading it away from extinction, has been specialized and perfected; Costa Rica has produced of one of the three best coffees in the world.

Coffee has diuretic and stimulant properties. Caffeine is a stimulant of the central nervous system on a neuromuscular and physical level; it increases gastric motility and intestinal peristalsis. Suitable for psychophysical asthenia, hypotension, bradycardia, biliary dyskinesia, constipation, bronchitis, opiate poisoning, cardiorespiratory problems and localized fat (cellulite). Excessive doses can cause palpitations, headache, irregular sleep and heart imbalances. It is now widely used in cosmetics for skin exfoliation. The flowers are white, small and scented; the extraction of the flowers essence is used for perfumes. Nowadays green dried ground coffee is consumed as a healthy fiber as it has weight loss and general health properties.

Common name:

Coffee

Scientific name:     

Coffea arabica

Family: Rubiaceae

Type: Bush

Condition: Introduced species

 

Itabo

(Yucca guatemalensis)

 
 

Distribution: Native to Central and eastern Mexico.

Natural history: This plant requires direct sunlight and withstands high temperatures. It is reproduced by cuttings or fragments of its trunk or shoots that form at the base of the plant.

Uses: Its inflorescence, medium bunch of tender white flowers, is edible and is an ingredient of traditional Costa Rican cuisine, but one must know how to prepare it; if you do not have the experience it can be very bitter. Used as an ornamental plant in houses and coffee plantations. On the Caribbean shores (Virgin Islands), it is used to produce a bread called “cazabe”. This plant belongs to the same family as the "lucky bamboo"; plant used as a good luck charm.

Common name:

Itabo

Scientific name:     

Yucca guatemalensis

Family: Asparagaceae

Type: Bush

Condition: Native specie

 

Golden Trumpet

(Allamanda cathartica)

 
 

Distribution: Native to South America widely naturalized throughout the tropics.

Natural history: It is a liana or climbing shrub. The whole plant contains caustic white latex.

Uses: Plant widely used for ornamental purposes due to its beautiful yellow flowers. It grows vigorously and lush hedgerows full of flowers often form. Its scent is fruity and delicate. It is often used as a natural medicine in Colombia and its latex has been used as an emetic and anthelmintic. In Cuba, leaf infusion has been used as emetic and purgative.

Common name:

Golden Trumpet

Scientific name:     

Allamanda cathartica

Family: Apocynaceae

Type: Bush

Condition: 

Naturalized and introduced specie

 

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Surinam Cherry

(Eugenia uniflora L)

 
 

Distribution: Originating in South America but now widely distributed in tropical countries.

Natural history: In Capitán Suizo its fruit is eaten by trogons and birds of beautiful colors that visit the garden during courtship.

Uses: The red fruit is sweet and sour at the same time, is very juicy and very tasty. It is rich in vitamin A, phosphorus, calcium and iron. It is also grown as an ornamental plant and pruned to low shrub for colorful hedges; however, fruit production is higher in unpruned specimens. Leaves can be scattered on floor where flies are abundant, when leaves are crushed they release a resin that drives them away.

Using the leaves an infusion with diuretic, digestive and anti-diarrheal properties can be prepare; the decoction of the bark is used as a gargle for sore throats and other ailments of the throat.

Common name:

Surinam Cherry

Scientific name:     

Eugenia uniflora L

Family: Myrtaceae

Type: Bush

Condition: Introduced species

 

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Cardon

(Stenocereus aragonii)

 
 

Distribution: Costa Rica (endemic species)

Natural history: It is the only native columnar and endemic cactus in Costa Rica. It can measure up to 7 meters tall. Their whitish bands indicate growth intervals and their red and solitary flowers are seen in May.

Uses: Some people let pieces of the vascular bundles dry until they form into strong woody cords. The result is a beautiful structure that is then used to make lamps and floral arrangements.

Common name: Cardon

Scientific name:     

Stenocereus aragonii

Family: Cactaceae

Type: Cacti

Condition:

Native and endemic specie

 

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Dragon Fruit

(Hylocereus costaricensis)

 
 

Distribution: It is native to Costa Rica, it is located in Central America and northeastern South America.

Natural history: This cactus is found in dry coastal forests. It is fast growing, it supports lack of water and grows on logs or tree branches.

Uses: Commercially cultivated for its fruit which is consumed naturally or for making juices, jams, sauces, etc. It is also planted for ornamental purposes for its beautiful flowers and fruits.

Common name:

Dragon Fruit

Scientific name:     

Hylocereus costaricensis

Family: Cactaceae

Type: Cacti

Condition: Native species

 

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Coconut Palm

(Cocos nucifera)

 
 

Distribution: Uncertain origin. Can be found in the tropical sandy beaches of the Caribbean Sea, Indian Ocean and The Pacific.

Natural history: Its fruit, despite being the largest seed that exists and having a considerable weight, has float-ability, allowing it to disperse its seeds by water and colonize other areas. This plant has a high tolerance to salt, to sandy soils and wind. Its flowers are pollinated with the help of the wind. It needs moisture and regular rainfall to grow and it does not tolerate cold temperatures or altitude.

Uses: Its fruit "coconut" is a great source of food, the water it produces inside, besides being sweet and tasting good, has many properties including being very hydrating. The fleshy layer of the fruit is also widely used as a base for the preparation of many desserts and many other traditional Caribbean recipes which highlight coconut oil flavor. Another precious product extracted from this fruit that can be used both for cooking and for multiple beauty benefits is “la pipa”(the fibrous outer layer of the coconut); when dried and cut in half it has been widely used in Costa Rica to polish and shine floors after applying wax.

Common name:

Coconut Palm

Scientific name:     

Cocos nucifera

Family: Arecaceae

Type: Palm tree

Condition: Naturalized introduced plant

 

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Red ginger

(Alpinia purpurata)

 
 

Distribution: Native to Malaysia; but widely distributed in almost all tropical areas of the world.

Natural history: It is an herbaceous evergreen plant; it has very thin and has long stems. The flowers are long, red or pink color and are shaped similar to a spike.

Uses: The flowers are long lasting, each one has about a three week lifespan; for this reason both flowers and leaves are used in flower arrangements. Although it shares a name with the famous ginger root, widely used for spice and medicinal purposes, it is a different species, yet belongs to the same family. 

Common name:

Red ginger

Scientific name:     

Alpinia purpurata

Family: Zingiberaceae

Type: Herbaceous plant

Condition: Introduced species

 

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Square Banana

(Musa sp.)

 
 

Distribution: native to Asia but widely distributed in the tropics.

Natural history: This plant is a large herb. It does not have a typical stem, its structure is formed by leaf sheaths that develop into pseudo-stems.

Uses: Used in traditional Costa Rican food. This herb is commonly cooked in salted water when cooking beans, is also prepared in ceviches and marinated with lemon, onion, bell pepper and spices. It is an excellent source of iron, potassium, vitamin A and carbohydrates. This plant is of the same genus as bananas, perhaps the world’s best known and consumed fruit, and was important to the economy of Costa Rica because of its cultivation for export. Even today in the Costa Rican Caribbean it is grown, but due to agriculture diversification and the Costa Rican economy, cultivation no longer has the same significance it had in the past. The importance it had in the past settled entire villages, mobilized workers, constructed roads, bridges, railways and ports. The guineo or square banana is not as commercialized and known as bananas but it certainly has a fundamental importance in the nutrition of the Costa Rican population. Its plants have a very particular fibrous structure with small chambers or spaces that tend to store water. For this reason they are planted with other crops like coffee to promote soil moisture. Water and liquid from the putrefaction of this plants stems are used as a treatment for mange in dogs and skin conditions in people. Its large smoked leaves are used to wrap cooked food and give food a special flavor. Its flower, when tender, is prepared in a mincemeat dish.

Common name:

Square Banana

Scientific name: Musa sp.

Family: Musaceae

Type: Herbaceous plant

Condition: Introduced specie

 

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Papaya

(Carica papaya)

 
 

Distribution: Tropical America, from southern Mexico to Costa Rica.

Natural history: According to the flowers, there are three types of plants that are the same species of "papaya". These plants have: only male flowers (male plant), only with female flowers (female plant) and male, female and hermaphrodite flowers (polygamous plants). Only the last two produce fruit.

Uses: Natural fruits are used for consumption. Fruits are often used in the manufacture of beverages, ice creams and cocktails. Its pulp is also used in beauty treatments.

It has digestive, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, it eliminates intestinal parasites, facilitates tanning, is low in calories, rich in nutrients and it has an alkalizing effect on the body. In Capitán Suizo leaves of this plant are a valued food source for howler monkeys.

Common name:

Papaya

Scientific name:     

Carica papaya

Family: Caricaceae

Type: Herbaceous plant

Condition: Native specie

 

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Heliconia

(Heliconia rostrata)

 
 

Distribution: Originating in South America, Central America, the Pacific Islands and Indonesia.

Natural history: Large herb with distichous leaves and inflorescences with large colored bracts. Inflorescences are born in the axils of the bracts and consist of bundles of flowers. Pollination occurs by birds, specifically hummingbirds, taking nectar from flowers.

Uses: These plants appreciated for their inflorescences and bold colors.

Common name:

Heliconia

Scientific name:     

Heliconia rostrata

Family: Heliconiaceae

Type: Herbaceous plant

Condition: Native specie

 

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Loteria

(Dieffenbachia spp)

 
 

Distribution: Originally from Central and South tropical America.

Natural history: Tropical green plant with leaves containing notable bright spots. It grows well in the shade; it spreads by seeds or through the air.

Uses: This plant tolerates the shade well so it has been used as an ornamental indoor plant. However, when crushing the leaves its fluids contain needle-like crystals of calcium oxalate so it can cause skin allergies or poisoning if ingested. In most cases, symptoms are mild and can be treated successfully using analgesics, antihistamines or activated carbon. It is generally not recommended to induce vomiting or perform gastric lavage, except in some cases.

Common name:

Loteria

Scientific name:     

Dieffenbachia spp.

Family: Araceae

Type: Small plant

Condition: Native specie

 

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Monstera

(Monstera deliciosa)

 
 

Distribution: From Mexico to Panama.

Natural history: Vine that grows at the base of trees. As it grows it changes its habitat, climbing up the trunk to reach the treetop. It remains evergreen.

Uses: Commonly used as an ornamental plant its intense green gives freshness to any garden or indoor environment. Widely used as a symbol of the tropical rainforest in illustrations.

Common name:

Monstera

Scientific name:     

Monstera deliciosa

Family: Araceae

Type: Small Plant

Condition: Native specie

 

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Wild pineapple

(Bromelia pinguin L)

 
 

Distribution: From Mexico to Ecuador.

Natural history: Thorny land herb. Its flowers are seen between May and June; its fruits are observed in January and from June to October.

Uses: It is used for hedgerows, as their spines prevent the passage of animals or people. With the fruits, drinks and porridges are prepared. The tender inflorescence is eaten as a vegetable. The vegetable fiber from the leaves has been used for handicrafts.

Common name:

Wild pineapple

Scientific name:     

Bromelia pinguin L.

Family: Bromeliaceae

Type: Bromelia

Condition: Native specie

 

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