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Lankester Botanical Gardens of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known for its National Parks, Rain Forests and pristine beaches, but how many know that it is also home to more than 1400 varieties of Orchids, of which almost 800 are cultivated and on display in the Lankester Botanical Gardens, in Cartago.

The gardens, measuring some 26 Acres, were created in the 1940s by an English Naturalist, Charles Lankester. They are now administrated by the University of Costa Rica who has expanded the collection that is now showing 3000 species from all over the world.

The idea was of course to preserve the local flora, with an emphasis on the orchids and the bromelias. The park is elegantly designed and the vast variety displayed at eye level means there is always blooms to see all year around; between February to April though is the best time to go.

The trails are paved and there are special wheelchair paths as well, making the visit available to all; one goes from shaded woods to sunny open gardens, from one environment to another, as the flowers are grouped according to the species. The information center will tell you all that you need to know, and there is also a gift shop that offers an interesting selection of books, and plants that are pre-approved for export by both Costa Rican and US Agricultural authorities, however visitors from other countries should get some information before importing plants as they could be confiscated upon entering their countries.

What makes these gardens so valuable for the visitors is that Orchids are actually quite hard to see in the wild because they live in the canopy, high up in the trees usually well hidden away. Further more, many species only flower for a few days per year and may easily stay unnoticed. Because the Lankester Gardens offer such an extraordinary variety you are sure to see many flowers in bloom!

While it is understood that the gardens attract the crowds for their outstanding collections of Orchids, there are many other interests on show,starting with the  cactus;  Guanacaste has many of these with its dry arid climate. Others settled in tree tops where the constant exposure to the sun and the wind make up the perfect arid environment for them.

During your promenade, you will also see bamboos, heliconias, various types of palm trees and plants, and conifers that are plentiful in the mountainous regions of this amazing country.Because of the abundance of blooms, the gardens are teeming with birds, specially the humming birds that are particularly keen on drinking the nectar of orchids.

A visit to the Lankester Gardens is always a great success by all members of the family, young and old, or whether you are really intrested in flowers and plants or not: It is a beautiful place to visit and its paved alleys, interpretive material and identification tags make it a pleasant and stress free day out and an excellent way to familiarize yourself with what you’ll see in the wild in Costa Rica.

Getting there is easy. Follow the panamerican highway, all the way to Route 10 to the East of Cartago. From there, follow indications to Paraiso, and you will see a sign for Lankester Garden. If you are going by bus, take the Cartago Paraiso route and the bus driver will let you off near the entrance. The park opens at 9:00 a.m. with last entry at 3:30 p.m. daily except for the Easter holidays, Christmas & New Year.

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Written by Mireille

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