Today is a special day for nation’s trees and forests

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute/Rolando Perez A typical specimen of the stately espavel

Costa Ricans have a deep love of trees. Trees are cut only when absolutely necessary. That’s why there are some sprouting out of the asphalt of even city streets. The road agency just did not have the heart to cut them.

Today is a special day for trees, it is the Día del Árbol in Costa Rica, not to be confused with Arbor Day which is in April in the north.

The designation of the day goes way back to 1915 when a presidential decree created the day. At school, there might be programs today in honor of trees.

Each year the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad de Costa Rica in Santo Domingo de Heredia selects the best specimens of a designated tree species to honor. This is the ninth year, and the tree of distinction this year is the espavel (Anacardium excelsum) or espavé.

This is among the tallest trees in the country and a relative of the cashew. The espavel also has edible fruits.

The Titi Conservation Alliance says that the name comes from a Spanish phrase es pa’ ver or “it’s to see.” The theory is that the name came from the Spanish and Indians using the tall tree as a lookout.

And tall it is. One specimen is said to be 25 meters high (about 82 feet) and with a trunk of three meters (nearly 10 feet) in diameter. The Titi Conservation Alliance says that the fruit is important food for monkeys.

The Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, known as InBio, holds its award program to point out the importances of trees and forest, it said. Costa Ricans were asked to nominate their favorite tree to be honored as the most exceptional. A lot of the decision will be based on the size of the tree.

InBio said that the tree can reach 50 meters (184 feet) and likes to grow along waterways.

The tree grows from Honduras south to Colombia, in northern Venezuela and in Ecuador, said InBio. In Costa Rica the tree is on both coasts but is most common on the Pacific side where it grows to about 1,000 meters of elevation, about 3,300 feet, said InBio.

The tree flowers in January to June and the sweet fruit matures from March to July, said InBio.

The tree has been used as ornamentation and also for its lumber, InBio said.

In honor of the day there are several announced tree planting projects, including one at Parque la Sabana.

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