Bart Bouricius on October Peru Trip and December-January Costa Rica Trip
This will be the 1st of two posts on Big trees of Peru and Costa Rica
Along with my co-workers, I spend 1-2 months each year in the Peruvian Amazon building, maintaining or expanding tree canopy walkway systems. These walkways are constructed by Canopy Construction Associates an organization I founded in 1990 which includes several contractors and scientists who get together to build walkways when projects commence.
This year I focused a little more of my free time photographing and measuring some of the trees I ran across in Peru and in Costa Rica where my wife Connie and I were visiting some of our Costa Rican and expatriate friends a few weeks ago. The following is a list of the measurements images and comments. To give some perspective to many ENTS members who are less familiar with New World tropical forests, I will use two quotes from Richard Condit the author of the 2011 book The Trees of Panama and Costa Rica:
"Forests of the tropics are famous for high species diversity. In Panama and Costa Rica, 200 or more species of trees can be found on a walk of a few hundred meters." - - - "in more remote areas where it is difficult to visit, it is typical for tropical botanists to leave as unidentified 25% of the species encountered.". I have been told that in Amazonian Peru an expedition of botanists from the Smithsonian Museum in 1984 counted over 600 species of trees in a single hectare (approximately 2.5 acres) many of them new to science. As I was not looking in remote places at least in Costa Rica, I was able to identify most of the larger trees I encountered, however, even in the less diverse gallery forests of the pacific slopes there is amazing diversity.
These first two images are of a particular Kapok tree Ceiba pentandra which is sort of a mascot for the Ceiba Tops Lodge near the banks of the Amazon in Northern Peru. The lodge is run by Explorama. My Coleague Phil Wittman climbed to the first branch of the tree which he accurately measured at 120 feet high. Phil measured the entire tree from the ground at 220 feet, however he was not using the approved ENTS methodology and I suspect it will have to be remeasured using a 440 range finder from directly below the tree to get an inkling how close his measurement was. I measured a smaller Kapok (no image) at the Tirimbina Biological Station Reserve at 157' 9".
There are certainly larger Kapoks in the area, though few offer the chance to see the whole tree like this one does. It is tall because it grew up in the forest. The forest was cleared around it for pasture or crops and then was allowed to grow back, as you can see the canopy of the surrounding forest is significantly lower than the old Kapok Tree. Just eyeballing the tree, I would estimate close to a 9 foot diameter above the buttresses. I plan to get better measurements on a larger Kapok when I take a group of people down to Peru this summer. By the way I measured another large Kapok at the Puntaleon Beach area in Costa Rica that had 10' of fill above ground level put around it's trunk several years ago. This would have killed just about any tree I know of in the US, but the tree still seems in reasonable health. It was easy to measure above the buried buttresses and it was 31 feet 2 inches CBH and 119' high, so if we include the part of the trunk below the fill, it is about 130' high. I was rushed at the time, so I did not get a picture, but if you Google images of Puntaleone Costa Rica Ceiba or Kapok or giant tree, you can find a few images of it. There is a plaque in front of the tree stating that it is over 400 years old. I have no idea how this is known.
Here I am measuring a smaller but attractive Ceiba pentandra on my friend Bob Lucas's farm near Alta Monte Costa Rica. It's measurements were 11' 3" CBH and 141' high.(305)
The trees on Bob's farm are part of a gallery forest which follows a stream bed adjacent to cow pastures on steep hills.
Here is what the gallery forest on the Pacific mountain slope of Costa Rica looks like.
Bob leans against a 158' tall Wild Cashew tree Anacardium excelsum. It was 15' 7". These trees are said to compete with the Kapok trees for height, and large ones can have immense girths as well. CBH. 3027
Here I am with a somewhat larger diameter Wild Cashew not measured.
Bob with Pseudobombax septenatum the Barrigon tree. These trees, in the same subfamily as the Kapok tree, have a swollen trunk with green vertical lines in the bark which has chlorphyl allowing this peculiar tree to perform photosynthesis in its bark. CBH 14' 8" height 107'
Here is my wife Connie with another Barrigon tree CBH 15' 5" but only 93' 3" tall.
See great web page on this species: http://www.cds.ed.cr/teachers/harmon/page20.html