Sunday, August 17, 2008


These are some epiphytes that were falling off a tree and that our naturalist guide at Monteverde showed to us. Epiphyte means "upon plant."

Epiphytes are plants that grow on trees. Most are not parasites. They live on a tree, but they do not exploit the resources of the tree to help them live. They collect the nutrients that they need from the air, rain and particles in the air. They do not draw sustenance from the host tree. Some host trees are completely covered with the leaves and vines of epiphytes.

Our guide, Eduardo, was extremely knowledgeable about the plants and animals in the area. Costa Rican guides seem to have an uncanny ability to spot wildlife that an untrained person would overlook. Eduardo carried a scope mounted on a tripod that he used to point out a rare quetzel,, the national bird of Costa Rica, barely visible in the thick foilage high in a tree.

I might take this opportunity to point out that Eduardo illustrates something about the demography of Costa Rica. 95% of Costa Ricans are classified as white, primarily of Spanish descent. 3% are of African origin, and only 1-2% are indigenous. Many of those of African descent live along the Carribean coast where they or their ancestors moved southward from Nicaragua or Belize. Their ancestors had moved to Nicaragua largely from Jamaica. Belize, formerly British Hondouras, was a slave port centuries ago.

Jamaica and Belize are both English-speaking countries. As a result, the African minority in Costa Rica generally speaks English as their native language. That is an asset in filling jobs in tourism, the number one industry in the country, because most visitors are from the USA and the English -speaking area of Canada.

One of the other naturalist guides who escorted other membersof our group was the son of one of the original group of 50 Quakers who settled Monteverde in 1951. It was our pleasure to meet with one of the original settlers. He drove a truck from Alabama to Monteverde in 1951. He lived for many of the intervening years in San Jose as the director of marketing for Monteverde cheese, returned to the U.S. for a few years when his children were young (and where they now live), then he ultimately returned to Monteverde to live.

Tomorrow . . . . a photo from the zip lines.

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