The joys of unexpected encounters

Sometimes you see amazing stuff here in Costa Rica, some is familiar and some is new. Take bougainvillea. I always thought that bougainvillea was a vine, or a kind of vining shrub, that climbed up the torleyheader062314sides of houses (usually the houses were orange and the flowers magenta – a horrible combination).

But the other day I found a bougainvillea tree. The trunk was a good 35 centimeters (about 14 inches) in diameter. It was short, but the branching structure was very strong. The tree itself is only
about 3 meters tall (10 feet) and it is an umbrella of blossoms.

Things surprise me all the time in the tropics. The other morning I went for a walk and found orchids on a tree stump. Not that this hasn’t happened before, but this one was an odd shape, long and leggy,  and evidently I had just missed the blooming. Since it was on a dead tree, it now has a new home in the shade garden.

I love these little walks even though I’m no longer supposed to walk alone. Nope, vetoed by my husband and my gardener. Evidently they both think I will do something dumb like climb a tree chasing something or slide down a mud bank . . . Okay, guilty of both but not recently. Usually I have a walking stick for balance although I am thinking of ordering ski poles. Anyway, they don’t want me doing anything dumb all alone. Sigh.

We walked on, Armando and I, him with a steady hand whenever he thought I needed one (more often than I thought I did) until we found some more things on downed limbs and fence posts. That’s when I noticed the flower, and it was even within reach.

There are a lot of flowering trees in Costa Rica and most of them are not in the local guidebook, “A Field Guide to Plants of Costa Rica,” because there are too many trees and plants for one book. (They freely admit that they had to choose and had to narrow their selection; still, it is a handy book.

This flower was white and mimosa-shaped with powder-puff petals like threads of silk. Did I pick it? No.  I picked the entire branch. Never try to identify anything from just the flower. Too many look alike, and the leaves can be a vital clue to species.

Did we find the species in the book? Well, we found the family, we think. Seems to be Mimosoideae, after that, you’re on your own. Just look at the picture and description below and see what you come up with. If you have the field guide, try page 53 for starters.

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