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Wilson Botanical Gardens, Las Cruces
OTS Las Cruces "Cabins"
Banana Bay Marina
Wilson Botanical Gardens, Las Cruces Print e-mail this page to someone who might be interested

Robert and Catherine Wilson started this garden in 1963 and ten years later control was transferred to the Organization for Tropical Studies. There are more than a thousand species of plants on the grounds, and the gardens serve several purposes. They are used as a training ground for scientists, and their education programs for the public are excellent as well. Research programs on tropical botany, including conservation, horticulture, sustainable development, agroecology, and reforestation studies are carried out, and the gardens preserve endangered species.


Wilson RecieptThere are several excellent walks through the gardens, whether you are just out for a stroll, or intent on learning the scientific names of every tree and flower you might encounter later in a National Park. Color-coded signs lead you along well maintained paths through plantings of related species on the Heliconia loop, the Bromeliad walk, the tree fern hill trail and fern gully, the bamboo forest, and the orchid garden loop. The jewel of the gardens is the collection of palms (over 700 species) from all over the world.

You can join a guided walk (make a reservation in advance... in high season to ensure inclusion and in low season to make sure there is a guide around) or pick up a trail guide that describes what you see at dozens of numbered and color-coded signs along the walks. If you want a little more mystery, there is a short (~1.5 km) trail through the primary forest abutting the gardens, or spend the night and join a nocturnal tour or the "early bird" avian expedition.

The Wilson botanical gardens would be an excellent first stop on any tour of Costa Rica. A visit here teaches you some basics of tropical ecology, and primes you for visits to the National Parks. The plants and animals are concentrated into a small area, things are clearly labeled so you can be sure of what you are seeing, and there are guides and other well informed visitors to answer your questions. Unfortunately visiting here first is not very practical for most visitors who fly into the international airport in the central valley eight hours to the north. There is an alternative. The Lankester Botanical Gardens near Cartago make an excellent day trip from anywhere near San Jose.

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Quick Facts
Wilson Botanical Gardens covers 145 hectares. Elevations range from 1000 to 1100 meters (3281 to 3609 feet).
The habitats represented here are gardens regenerating
tropical rainforest-upland

Recommended Reading
Hummingbirds of Costa Rica

Field Guide to the Palms of the Americas

A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica

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Tico Trivia
Tarantulas (Matacaballos) can grow to over 10” (25 cm) and some can make a snakelike hiss by rubbing the hairs of their legs together.
Latin American Insects and Entomology, Charles L. Hogue
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