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MY LIFE WITH PLANTS: Costa Rica Riches - Talari Mountain Lodge

By Jim Bishop.

This is a continuation of our trip to Costa Rica in November 2019.

Read about the beginning of the trip here.

Read about Las Cruces Botanical station here

After a final look at the bird and bromeliads at the Las Cruces Botanical station and we packed our bags and were on our way to Talari Mountain Lodge.

Bird Guide Outside the Dining Hall

Though we enjoyed the gardens and jungle, we were looking forward to a bit better food, drier weather, and better internet.

Scenes along the way and our lunch stop

In the morning we drove past the more agriculturally developed parts of Costa Rica. Lots of pineapple and sugar cane fields.

Pineapple fields.
Sugarcane in bloom.
Sugarcane fields at various stages.

Lunch Stop

The restaurant was at the bottom of a steep hill. Our lunch stop, had many colorful birds.

They had fruit just outside the open air dining area where we were able to get a closeup view of the many colorful birds.

A river ran below the our lunch spot

We spent most of the day on the bus crossing the highest point on the Pan American Highway at 12,000 feet. Earlier in October, I was in Peru and we frequently were on the Pan American Highway. We also crossed the Andes several times with summits over 15,000 feet. However, the highway in Peru mostly follows the coastline, so the highest elevations of the highway are much further north in Costa Rica.

Photo of iPhone screen near the summit of the Pan American Highway

During the construction of the Pan-American Highway during the 50s, many workers relocated into this area and stayed. Today small villages in the highlands are populated by descendants of the workers. The region has special importance for conservation as well as Eco-tourism.

Restaurant near the summit of the Pan American Highway

Lots of colorful native plants were growing nearby the restaurant:

Giant thistle.
Very excited to see all the tree dahlias growing along the highway.

Talari Mountain Lodge

Turning off the Pan American highway we headed down a very narrow and windy road to Talari Mountain Lodge in San Isidro del General. The lodge and reserve protects a small patch of subtropical forest in an otherwise heavy agricultural area of south central Costa Rica. Cerro de la Muerte is considered a birdwatcher's paradise with the iconic resplendent Emerald toucanet and hummingbirds being fairly common sightings. We stayed in somewhat rustic cabin-like rooms that due to the elevation were quite chilly at night but set in a beautiful garden setting with a running stream. Here we say many wonderful and colorful birds.

Not exactly what we expected, but a garden with many succulents was in front of the concierge desk.

Some very happy echeverias.

To get to our cabin we had go walk through several gardens planted with exotic plants that wound past other cabins and crossed a small stream several times.

There were several very large Abyssinian Banana, Ensete ventricosum.

We saw this plant in many places throughout Costa Rica.
We were traveling with plant people so we couldn't identify most of the birds.
Even so, I know this is a hummingbird. There were several different species that frequented the feeders.
More Echeverias. Echeverias are succulents native mostly to central and southern America.
There were several Gunneras growing in the garden.

Hike in the old grown forest above the lodge

We rode 4-wheel drive open air vehicles to the high up in the forest and then walked back down through the dense forest to the lodge.

The old growth trees at the top of the trail were impressively large and tall.
In areas the tree canopy blocked out all of the direct sunlight.
Life on life. Anything that held still was covered with plant life.
Areas of palms were in the undergrowth mostly near the mountain stream.
Bromeliads and mosses covered the branches of many trees.
A few tree ferns grew in the jungle.
Scott and friend admiring the size of one of the tree trunks.
The upper part of the trail mostly followed and crossed this stream several times.
A few wildflowers appeared in brighter areas.
Many species of fungi were everywhere decaying all of the debris and dead plants.
An unknown large leafed plant.
An epiphytic blueberry in bloom. How cool is that?
More Bromeliads.
One of the wider and flatter parts of the trail.
A colorful moss.
Not sure what this epiphyte is, maybe a small fern?
A bit suspicious that this isn't a native plant.
A colorful bromeliad.
More moss and bromeliads.
Non-native Melastoma. These are invasive plants in many tropical areas around the world.
An armed leaf growing from an even spiker stem.
More moss.

Recognizable as a Castilleja, but I don't know the species.

These are often semi-parasitic plants.

Moss in bloom.
A turkey fungus.
Another likely introduced plant.

Hike along the River below the lodge

On our last day at the lodge, Scott and I ventured out and walked along the road and then a trail below the property to explore the running river and waterfalls. It also goes through part of the Parque Nacional Los Quetzales. We were also looking for the resplendent quetzal and Emerald toucanet, known to be in the area, but didn't spot any.

We hiked along this river into the dense jungle around it.
There were homes along the road and most had planted gardens.

Streptosolen jamesonii (Marmalade Bush) - Native to South America.

Just before entering the National Park, was a large private garden with ponds and lovely plantings.
Non-native Melastoma.
A trout fish hatchery along side the river.
Countless small waterfall along the river.
We were running out of daylight, so taking photos wasn't always possible, but here is one of the large old growth trees.

The next morning we packed up to head back to San Jose, but before that we spent the day touring two of the most beautiful private gardens we visited on the tour . . . More to share at another time.


Past President, Jim Bishop, is the current publicity chairperson on the Board of the San Diego Horticultural Society and he was the 2019 - 2020 SDHS Horticulturist of the Year among many, many other things.


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