The country’s most exceptional Ceiba tree, a 57-meter-tall giant that towers over Arenal Lake, in north-central Costa Rica, was honored yesterday during a ceremony on the National Day of Trees.
A jury of botanists and forestry experts, some from the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio), selected this tree from more than 50 entries to the third annual edition of INBio’s “Exceptional Tree Award.”
“The award has the intention of recognizing not just the individual tree, but also the socio-cultural context that surrounds conservation of this tree,” INBio president Rodrigo Gamez told journalists at a press conference at INBio, in Heredia, on Tuesday.
INBio botanist Nelson Zamora explained that the Ceiba, a symbol of rainy tropical jungle lowlands, used to be exploited only for its fruit, which contains a type of water-resistant cotton used to stuff life jackets, toys and pillows.
“Unfortunately, the tree is currently being exploited for wood,” he said at the press conference. “Epiphytes grow on its very long branches, and when a tree is eliminated, they don’t just eliminate the tree, but many species.”
The winning Ceiba, whose top extends over 60 meters, is located in Malte Baron von Schlippenbach’s 15-hectare farm in the town of Nuevo Arenal, home of the five cabin La Ceiba Tree Lodge.
According to Venezuelan forestry expert Gerardo Budowski, a member of the panel of judges in the contest, this tree is anywhere between 200-400 years old.
Indigenous cultures have considered Ceibas, found all the way from Mexico to Brazil and in western Africa, sacred trees that lodge the souls of the dead, according to Budowski.
Last year’s exceptional tree went to a Guanacaste tree at Héctor Zúñiga park in Liberia, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, while the 2004 award honored a calabash tree in Ciudad Colón, west of San José.
Entries for the 2007 award, which will honor mountain almond trees, will be accepted until March 30, 2007.
For more information about the contest, call 507-8113 or e-mail [email protected].