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In Costa Rica w'all are cuckoo for coconuts

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Published on Friday, August 4, 2023

By Victoria Torley

There is a place on Route 142, between TilarŠn and Rio Piedras, where Lake Arenal comes right up to a short stretch of road or the road drops down to the lake, itís quite a road. 

That stretch of road measures about 100 hundred meters or so, but what a road! You find yourself at the end of the lake farthest from the dam with a long view of Volcano Arenal.

You also find your gardening self with an opportunity, and what an opportunity it is. You see, the property on the hillside of the road is absolutely loaded with coconut palms.

Coconut palms are a blessing for so many reasons. The shade when they are smaller, the fruit with its milk, the oil they produce and that tasty topping of shredded coconut. 

You can buy them, of course, but whereís the adventure in that? So, park your car and take a stroll on the lakeshore or scramble among the boulders to find your own.

You see, those coconut palms are seldom harvested. Instead, the fruit drops from the palms or is blown off in one of our storms. They careen across the road, bounce down the rocks (or get stuck in them) and hit the beach where conditions are perfect for them to send out the first tendril of roots.

It was about seven years ago when we found this stretch of beach while looking for pot shards. There are plenty of those if you know where to look. It was there that I discovered a coconut palm, its leaves already two feet tall! Forget the pot shards, I need this coconut.

It was a hot day and humid but I squatted down with my trusty trowel and started to dig. And dig, and dig.

I was down about a foot and a half, chasing a tap root, when Metric Man and our friend decided that is enough. Reluctantly, I cut the root and wrapped it around the fruit then tucked it away in my pack. Then I spotted another shoot up in the boulders, leaves in the wind. Naturally, that one joined the first.

While the men continued the search for archeological finds, I continued my search for wayward palms. No palms grow on the beach. Either they had been scavenged or the ebb and flood of the lake had washed them away so I didnít feel guilty about rescuing them. By the time our water Ė and muscles Ė had given out, I had collected five coconut palms, most with only tiny roots. I had my treasures.

We planted them in a lovely patch of ground below the house. I only wish someone had told me about the coconut palm beetle. But that's a discussion for another day.

Plant of the week. I donít normally grow succulents but I had an idea... Anyway, I found this one at the local feria and decided that I had the perfect place for it, a spot with rough highly aerated soil. 

I liked the plant because it was already growing a babyónothing like getting a two-for-one deal. Now, ask me what its name is, I dare you. I have one book on succulents, only one, and itís not in there. Nor did the lovely lady who sold it to me know the name and the internet search was hopeless. 

I am guessing an Echeveria but I donít really know so itís up to you. If you can name it, drop me a line. Thanks!

Find more amazing stories about gardening in Costa Rica on 
the AM Costa Rica Garden website. Regarding questions on this article, Ms. Victoria Torley, gardener columnist, can be reached at victoriatorley1@gmail.com.


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