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Costa Rica Travel >>natural areas>>Lankester Botanical Gardens
also see Wilson Botanical Gardens

Lankester Botanical Gardens
Orchids and Epiphytes

National Park Costa Rica
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Orchids are surprisingly difficult to see in the wild. Even with a qualified guide you'd be lucky to spot a dozen during a full day in the forest. The majority are epiphytic, growing high in the canopy on trunks, branches or in crotches out of sight. Additionally, many are rather mundane until they flower, and might only flower for a day or two a year. The same is true for many of the other interesting epiphytes in Costa Rica. Fortunately Lankester Gardens has a world class collection of nearly a thousand varieties displayed at eye level, and the huge number of plants means it's likely that hundreds will be blooming when you visit.

Orchid (© R. Krueger-Koplin)
Orchid (© R. Krueger-Koplin)

The Collections
While there is no question which family of plants steals the show at the garden, there are several other important collections. Many people are surprised to discover that cacti and other succulents are common in Costa Rica. Many species are from the Tropical dry forests of Guanacaste. Others thrive in the treetops where constant drying winds, scorching sun, and the lack of soil to trap rainwater create an unexpectedly arid environment.

Other families that are well represented in the garden are palms, bamboos, heliconias, bromeliads, palms, and conifers. The surrounding tropical premontane forest is some of the best preserved in the area, and attract animals, birds, and insects to this protected haven. Hummingbirds in particular frequent the garden, and especially the nectar rich flowers in the butterfly enclosure.

Orchid (© R. Krueger-Koplin)
Orchid (© R. Krueger-Koplin)

In the region
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In the region
Coffee TourA tour of a working coffee farm is the perfect compliment to the ornamental gardens at Lankester.

VolcanoIrazú Volcano National Park is about twenty miles north through scenic potato, onion, and cabbage fields that give way to dairy farms at higher elevations. It lacks the flowing lava of Arenal, but offers an assortment of craters, boiling mud pots, otherworldly green and blue lakes, fumaroles and pyroclastic cones, and cloud forests.

When to visit Costa Rica
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When to visit
Anytime is a great time for a visit to Lankester, but it can be particularly rewarding as a first stop. The identification tags and interpretive materials provide an easy way to start familiarizing yourself with some of the things that you'll see in the wild.
Do you know what a sloth's favorite food is? One of the easiest ways to spot sloths is to know the shape of Cecropia tree leaves, and when you see them on the ground, look up.

Books and other resources
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Toucan Ratings Explained | Lowest Available Price
Why Buy from Us?

The Cattleyas and Their Relatives: Brassavola, Encyclia, and Other Genera of Mexico and Central AmericaThe Cattleyas and Their Relatives: Brassavola, Encyclia, and Other Genera of Mexico and Central America
by Carl L. Withner, Hardcover, 242 pages, Publisher: Timber Press, (1998), ISBN: 0881924563

not yet reviewed
This is not a coffee table book full of color pictures. It is a study of the history, cultivation, breeding and ecology.
$US 30.07 from Amazon -or-
Barnes&Noble member price $US 40.80

Field Guide to the Orchids of Costa Rica and PanamaField Guide to the Orchids of Costa Rica and Panama
by Robert L. Dressler, Paperback, 374 pages, Publisher: Cornell Univ. Press, (1993), ISBN: 0801481392

A relatively technical book, but it includes an extensive section on how to use the guide. There are 40 color plates with 6 excellent photos each. general orchid structure and ecology is complimented by a section on the specifics of Costa Rican an Panamanian plants, and an excellent glossary. A general key is used to to get to the right chapter then 300 pages of specific keys including good black and white line drawings are used for specific identifications.
four and a half toucan out of five from
$US 27.97 from Amazon -or-
Barnes&Noble member price $US 30.36

Field Guide to the Palms of the AmericasField Guide to the Palms of the Americas
by Andrew Henderson, Gloria Galeano, Rodrigo Bernal, Paperback, 363 pages, Publisher: Princeton Univ. Press, (1997), ISBN: 0691016003

Beautiful color plates complimented by species accounts and ecology.
four and a half toucan out of five from
$US 30.45 from Amazon -or-
Barnes&Noble member price $US 35.63

The Rainforests: A CelebrationThe Rainforests: A Celebration
by Living Earth Foundation, Lisa Silcock (Editor), H R H Charles the Prince of Wales, Paperback: 224 pages, Publisher: Chronicle Books, (1993), ASIN: 0811801551

Fantastic coffee table book loaded with beautiful, fascinating photographs and the added bonus of insightful, interesting text. It's almost impossible not to learn something if you pick this book up. The photos will grab you attention, and you'll scan the text for an explanation of the bizarre things you see.
rated five out of five toucans by
out of print but available at excellent prices from Amazon

Ultimate OrchidUltimate Orchid
by Smithsonian Institution, American Orchid Society, Thomas J. Sheehan,Hardcover: 160 pages, Publisher: DK Publishing, (2001), ISBN: 0789480441

Spectacular. Just what you would expect from the Smithsonian Institution teamed up with the American Orchid Society.
rated 5 toucans by
$US 17.50 from Amazon -or-
Barnes&Noble member price $US 19.00

Information on the web
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Information on the Web
The official website of the American Orchid Society.

The New York Botanical Gardens is not particularly known for their orchid collection, but it holds a spot in our hearts because it was our oasis in the city when we lived a short walk away for four years.

The Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens is deservedly well known for their orchid collection and is probably my favorite garden in the world, narrowly edging out the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Award winning orchid photographs


Map showing the location of Lankester Botanical Gardens in Costa Rica

Location—14 miles (23 km) east of San José
9° 47' N, 83° 53' W

Getting There—Driving directions, and information on transportation by bus, and taxi will open in another window and are included in the printable PDF Quick Guide.

Entrance fees—1,200 colones, students and residents half price.

Hours—open at 9:00 a.m. with last entry at 3:30 p.m. daily except for the Easter holidays, Christmas & New Years day.

Walking trails—A map of walking and wheelchair paths, and description on the gardens is included in the printable PDF Quick Guide

Gift shop—The gift shop offers an excellent selection of books, and plants that are pre-approved for export by both Costa RIcan and US Agricultural authorities. (Visitors from other countries should ask to insure that the plants will not be confiscated when they return home.)

Quick Facts
—Lankester Gardens are in the Central Valley of Costa Rica which has been said to have the best weather in the world. Appropriately for a garden, it's perpetually spring, with temperatures in the 70's and afternoon showers.
Monthly temperature and rainfall averages for Lankester Gardens, Costa Rica

Size—26.5 acres (10.7 hectares, 1/30th the size of central park, NYC)

Elevation—4,498 feet (1,371 meters)

Established—The gardens were established by British orchid enthusiast Charles Lankester West in 1917. In 1973 his family donated the plants, and the American Orchid Society, and the Stanley Smith Foundation (U.K.) purchased the grounds and donated them to the University of Costa Rica to perpetuate for research, and the enjoyment of the public.

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Current, detailed and accurate. Shows canopy tours, hotsprings and other activities.