Rewilding and protecting rare forest species

Posted on August 10, 2020 at 1:00 PM

A little information about Osa Conservation's Botanic Program

Our Botanic Program focuses on rare, endemic, and threatened species of plants. We collect, germinate and plant native species, including fruiting trees, palms, and flora that attract wildlife for food, nest sites, and shelter. By propagating these species, we are re-creating habitat and also attracting wildlife or “re-wilding” this former pastureland. The spectacular natural setting in the Osa provides us an exciting opportunity to educate local and international visitors about the importance of the region’s incredible plant diversity and create a deeper connection between people and plants.


Designed for locals, international students, and ecotourists, our botanic garden features a small greenhouse and miles of trails that are an ideal educational resource for those using our facilities as a research and training site. In our nursery and planting programs, we work on the germination, collection, and rewilding of native plants, including fruiting trees, palms, bat nesting plants, pollinator plants, bromeliads, and many others.


Together, we are investigating how vanilla orchid flowers use a variety of intricate strategies to attract pollinators. This is part of our goal to cultivate wild vanilla in our secondary forests and restoration areas in the Osa Peninsula.  Learn about ongoing and new projects and programs you can participate in at:

As a small part of this program, Saladero Ecolodge and several other lodges have provided areas for reforestation of some very rare and endemic specicies. Some of which are critically endangered and almost extinct due to deforestation and logging. By placing on private property they believe there is a better chance the new trees will be protected and survive.

To put the amount of work involved in perspective, scientists from Osa Conservation have to travel to remote parts of the Osa Penninsula, collect the seeds, sometimes climbing trees that are 40 meters tall, bring them back to the nursery and germinate them. Every tree has it's own germination process that scientists need to have knowledge of to have viable seedlings. For some rare species there may be very little knowledge on how to germinate the seeds and they have to experiment, using knowledge they garner from field work studying dispersal of seeds and which animals have symbiolotic relationships with the tree or plant.

This past weekend Dr. Andrew Whitworth, Executive Director, Eleanor Flatt, Wildlife Conservation coordinator and Ruthmery Pilco Huarcaya, Botanical Projects Manager from Osa Conservation brought 60 trees of 6 different species for planting at Saladero Ecolodge. We have an area that is Agro/Forest adjacent to primary rainforest that is a perfect location for the new seedlings. Close enough to the existing forest that arboral animals can access when mature. It is semi shaded and moist. 

Here is a little information of the species planted:

1. Williamodendron glaucophylum "melon". The rarest of all seedlings planted with a very small number of individuals remaining on the Osa. It is in the Avocado family and provides fruits important to many birds and monkeys. It is a very good timber tree and only located in South West Costa Rica.

2.Peltogyne purpurea "Nazareno" or Purple Heart. Native to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, Panama and also the Atlantic side of Columbia. It tolorates poor soils and grows up to 50 meters tall and 1 meter in diameter. It has been declared a vulnerable species and an endangered timber species. The wood is heavy, difficult to work with but has a natural durability and beauty.

3.Terminalia Costarincensis "Escobo" "Amarillon. Endemic to southern Costarica there is little information available about this tree. The seeds are wind disbursed and it reaches a height of 30-40 meters.

4.Copaifera Camibar.   Distribution is mainly restricted to the Los Mogos region, Osa Peninsula but it is also known in the Piedras Blancas National Park, Golfito National Wildlife Refuge and bese of Cerro Nara near Quepos. Grows from 15 to 20 meters high. Strangely, the only other location known is at Puerto Ayacucho-Gavilan in Venezuela where it is a common species. It is known locally as "Camibar" for its oil that is extracted from the trunk for medicinal uses. Its wood is used for firewood and construction. Seedlings cannot be planted in full sun. The white flowers are very fragrent.

5.Ormosia Macrocalyx "Nene Rojo". An evergreen tree that can grow up to 40 meters tall with a 50cm diameter. The tree is harvested for it wood. The seed and perhaps the bark of many if not all species of this genus contain alkaloids and are toxic. Range is from Brazil to Mexico. It likes wet, swampy forests up to 100 meters in elevation. Or along river sides elevations up to 700 meters. The brightly colored seeds are commonly used as beads so the tree is sometimes called the necklace tree. 

6.Couratari Scottmori "Copo hediondo" "Condon de Mono". Common names in Costa Rica are Cachimbo hediondo, copo, matasano. Located on the Osa Peninsula and the lowlands of San Jose Province as well as San Blas and the Darien province of Panama. They are large trees to 40 meters tall with a buttressed trunk 50-80cm. The seeds, surrounded by a circumferential wing, are dispersed by the wind. Related to the Brazil Nut tree.





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