Tropical Field Ecology in Costarica

Palo Verde (Sun., 3/8/09) – Discovering the Beauty of the Dry, Rocky Hills
by -- March 9th, 2009

Monkey ladders don’t make very good swings.

Sampling the various species of vines (or lianas) along the way, my daughter drew this conclusion as she made her way up the rocky path to the top of the outcrop just behind the OTS field station.  (Monkey ladder vine, liana Bauhinia)

Monkey Ladder Vine

A common zigzagging vine of the dry tropical forests in Palo Verde National Park

The path climbs steeply up the chunks of limestone rocks covered with crunchy fallen leaves of this deciduous dry forest. Missing all these leaves makes for great views and this being the middle of the dry season means no insects and incessant dry warm wind. There are about perhaps 10-15% of the trees that still maintain their leaves– the rest simply show their curious branching patterns, some with colorful and peeling barks (Madrones). Though the main attraction of Palo Verde seems to be the broad, bird and crocodile-laden wetland, we are discovering the beauty of these dry rocky cerros (hills) and the enchanting perspective they offer. Earlier we went up another cerro to the east of the OTS station just a short walk away.

Hilltop Shot with MEMs

Cerro east of Palo Verde Station

We passed limestone outcrops topped with enormous trees and cacti, anchored only by some very strong thick roots woven through the rock crevices. These trees, roots and vines are more dense than their temperate counterparts. Another anatomical detail is that perhaps because of their zigzagging nature, the monkey ladders don’t swing as well as the straight vine below (liana sp.)

Liana Swing

Stella making a swing out of a vine

1 Comment

  1. Jane
    Mar 10, 2009

    Being the experienced swinger that she is, Stella looks very happy with the tropical version!

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