I absolutely love going far off into the woods and looking for things. You never know what you might stumble upon. For me, being in the woods and out in nature offers not only some very much needed peace and quiet but it's also a great place to learn about plants. For the past several years now, I have been quite obsessed with nature hikes consisting of wild plant scouting. Nothing makes me more excited than coming across a new plant species that I have never seen before and then obsessing for days or weeks trying to ID the plant! It is something I am wildly passionate about. I don't know how many plant scouts are out there, but I have a feeling this is going to grow in popularity.
Recently I have been seeing a lot of posts by aroid enthusiast and collector Mick Mittermier @mickmitty, sharing his recent wild plant scouting adventures in Costa Rica!! He has travelled to some very remote places in this country in search of wild monsteras, anthuriums and more! His findings are really incredible. It's so amazing to see other plant scouts out there sharing their experiences, especially when it's right here in Costa Rica! Mick's recent trips in CR have inspired me even more to search deeper, hike further and learn more about everything that grows wild in these parts. We live in the most beautiful country in the world. I want to take the opportunity to explore and learn as much as I can about this incredible place.
I don't own a vehicle, so my adventures tend to be closer to home, but not surprisingly, there exists a series of different micro climates around Jaco that are home to a wide array of plant species and that are quite accessible, by foot and bike.
After several conversations about my wild plant finds with our team member and fellow crazy plant lady, Kate, I convinced her (quite easily, might I add!) to accompany me on a hike on our next day off! "Finally!", I thought to myself. "I have a plant scouting partner." You know what they say! 'Two sets of eyes are better than one'. Kate is also one crazy-knowledgeable plant lady, so this was sure to make this hike very exciting.
We departed early in the morning. It had rained the night before, so everything was fresh and all the foliage looked shiny and clean. Our first stop was a cool, shaded section of a dirt road. There is a distinct change in climate at this very point. The large trees create a tall and thick canopy, it's more humid and much darker. There are several waterways along the way. The temperature feels cooler. This is where the elevation begins.
In this area, we came across a very large and full philodendron. It stood at about 70 cm high and more than a meter across. It resembles the philodendron nangaritense that we have at the shop, but with leaves slightly more heart shaped!
In this same area we also spotted some beautiful specimens of monstera tuberculata climbing up an enormous tree. One particular specimen was over 3 meters long and had some of the largest leaves I have ever seen on a monstera tuberculata.
I adore the way these monsteras stick to walls and trees as though they have been glued in place!
We continued on our hike until we reached an area at slightly higher in elevation that is heavily covered with monsteras. There are several andansonii and M. costaricenses, deliciosas and many other unknown varieties. Kate and I looked for varieties that had spathes and /or a spadex to help us later identify the plant. We came across several varieties with different leaf frenation patterns. Don't ask me what they all are! I'm still learning!
Our next stop was a damp and dark area alongside a small river. This area is covered with wild begonias, climbing philodendrons, tabacon plants, syngoniums and fungi.
This area is one of my regular stops on my plant scouting trips. There is a large philodendron growing up a tree there that I have yet to be able to identify, although now I suspect it's a type of philodendron mexicanum. (shown below in bottom right corner).
Our next stop was really exciting. We came across an abandoned lot with a large fallen tree on the property. We eagerly walked towards it to see what we could find and Boy! Did we find some cool stuff!!!
Large monstera deliciosas, weird looking orchids, swordferns, syngoniums, and best of all, epiphyllums!! Wild scouting does have its price though! As Kate went to look at the epiphyllum, she was savagely attacked by some ants that bit both her wrists!! Be careful where you touch!! Don't worry. Kate is ok, and her forearms are recovering well! haha
After the ant attack, we decided to break for lunch. Just up the road is a beautiful little waterfall, perfect for a picnic and for cooling off!
After taking a break, we decided to head back down the road and take a hike up towards Cantina El Tajo. Kate told me she had never been to this hidden little gem in the mountains. As we hiked up the road, I showed her all of the philodendron micans I have spotted before along the way, some dieffenbachias, and more giant monsteras! We were now approaching noon and it was getting hotter outside, so we just focussed on reaching the restaurant and getting ourselves a refreshment!
El Tajo is a really amazing place to end our hike. This restaurant not only has amazing views , it also has loads of wild plants growing on the property and several baskets of orchids, ephiphyllum, and wild vanilla hanging from the ceiling beams. We also love their beautiful roosters and cats! They also serve a delicious limonada con menta! This restaurant is a definite place of interest for any plant lovers out there and anyone looking for a quiet retreat from Jaco.
This hike was one of best I have been on in a long while. Not only because I saw so many amazing plants in their wild habitat, but I also got to share the experience with another crazy plant lady who is as passionate about plants as I am.
I hope that this blog post inspires some of you to get out there and explore your environment and learn about what grows near you ! The next time you are out hiking, take the time to stop and look closely at the vegetation and up into the trees! You never know what you might come across along the way! We'd love to hear about your plant adventures.
Happy plant scouting,