The Bosqueterno land straddles the Continental Divide in the Tilarán Mountains (Cordillera de Tilarán) of Costa Rica. Elevations range from 1500 m to 1859 m on Cerro Negro. The land is steeply sloped and covered with primary tropical cloud forest with small areas of secondary forest as well as a flat swampy area. The majority of its spring waters flow to the Pacific. It is a verdant, lush, often windy paradise, and with continuing non-interference by man and machines, it will hopefully remain that way.
The land is affected by trade winds blowing clouds westward from the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea. As the clouds hit the high ridge of the mountains, they deposit their moisture and dissipate as they head toward the Pacific. Compared to the hot and dry lands in the provinces of Guanacaste and Puntarenas on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, the temperatures are much cooler on the top of the mountain, there is less sunlight due to the almost constant cloud cover, and much more moisture. This creates a unique environment that is the habitat of flora and fauna that thrive in these high elevation conditions. Many organisms are endemic to the cloud forests of the Cordillera. We would like to share just a few of the inhabitants with you.
In the plant world, there are a number of species that have been identified in the upper Monteverde area. One of these is the Heliconia monteverdensis (Heliconiaceae). One of the higher elevation species of heliconias, this is also one of the smallest native heliconias in the country. Its pretty, cream-coloured flowers are hugged by bright red bracts.
Anthurium monteverdense [Araceae] is an epiphytic plant that produces a gardenia-like odor from its inflorescence.
Stellilabium is a genus of diminutive, epiphytic orchids, with flowers perched at the tip of the photosynthetic stem. Of the eleven species known to occur in Costa Rica, ten are believed to be endemic to the country.
In Monteverde, there are five known species, four of which (S. boylei, S. bullpenense, S. campbelliorum, S. monteverdense) are thought to be endemic to the region, as alluded to by their names referencing Monteverde people and places. The fifth known species, S. barbozae, was discovered by Monteverde naturalist, Gabriel Barbosa, and has been collected on other Costa Rican mountains besides the Cordillera de Tilarán.
Other endemic species include a vine, Tetrapteris monteverdensis, which climbs tree trunks in the cloud forest in pursuit of sunlight; Eugenia monteverdensis (Myrtaceae) which is a tree with fruits that are eaten by bats, who, in return for the meal, disperse the tree’s seeds; and another tree, Lonchocarpus monteviridis (Fabaceae), that has relatively large purple flowers that are pollinated by equally large native bees.
Resident bird communities in the Cordillera de Tilarán at Monteverde include species that are restricted to the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama. Global warming has lead to local climate change at Monteverde, and may, in the foreseeable future, threaten the highland endemic bird species by reducing the amount of suitable habitat. These species include the following:
The Collared Redstart. This has the Spanish common name Amigo de Hombre (Man’s Friend) for its tendency to come out of the shrubs, cheep, fan its tail, and pirouette in front of people. (It may just be looking for insects, which are flushed by hikers and gobbled by the “friendly” bird.)
The Wrenthrush (also called Zeledonia) is neither a wren nor a thrush, but rather a warbler. This long-legged bird prefers to live amongst the brambles of dense vegetation, for instance, bamboo thickets.
Fiery-throated hummingbirds are mostly located in the canopy layer of cloud forest trees where they take nectar from a variety of epiphytic bromeliads, vines, and shrubs.
Peg-billed finch is a species that has an unusual bill amongst finches, which it uses for probing flowers for nectar and piercing berries. It is also a heavy predator of bamboo seeds during the rare periods when bamboos fruit.
Black-and-yellow silky-flycatchers belong to a small bird family (Ptilogonatidae) that has a mere four species, including two in Costa Rica. They are unrelated to the “true” – and very large – flycatcher family (Tyrannidae).
Despite the serious situation of the decline and disappearance of amphibians worldwide, particularly at high elevations, there are fortunately species that remain. In Monteverde, these include the Norops tropidolepus (cloud forest anole). Populations of this lizard at Monteverde declined in the 1980’s, but luckily still persist in some sites in the region. The rare salamander, Bolitoglossa subpalmata (Monteverde salamander), is semi-arboreal. It’s been spotted inside the moist tank of a bromeliad during the dry season in Monteverde.
Hyla fimbrimembra (Highland Fringe-limbed Treefrog) is a member of the treefrog family. This species climbs onto vegetation where it spends the day quietly, waiting for the night-time to become active. Biologists speculate that the skin fringes along its arms and legs may allow it to glide between plants, as has been observed in a related treefrog, Hyla miliaris.
Monteverde’s most famous amphibian is Bufo periglenes (Golden toad). These spectacular toads were endemic only to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve when they suddenly disappeared in the late 1980’s, along with populations of some 40% of Monteverde’s amphibian species. They have not been observed since then and biologists fear that they may have gone extinct.
It is Bosqueterno S.A.’s sincere hope and intention that by continuing to protect this cloud forest habitat, that these native species, and the thousands more that exist in the area, will have a chance to survive. No matter what the politics, economics or social nature of the human community, may the natural community and its complex systems continue to thrive and surround us with their grace and glory.
We would like to thank the photographers – Bill Haber, Willow Zuchowski, Dan Perlman (EcoLibrary.org), John Campbell (Martha Campbell) and Kay Chornook – for their photographs. Also, Zona Tropical Publications allowed us to use Robert Dean’s exceptional illustrations from the field guide, The Birds of Costa Rica, by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean (2007) – for this, we are truly grateful.