Costa Rican Orchids

This topic submitted by Geoff MacIntyre ( at 12:44 AM on 4/28/04.

The extreme tidal flow (~1 meter/sec) at Pigeon Creek, San Salvador, was measured with a current meter in "Blow-Outs" in the main channel.

Tropical Field Courses -Western Program-Miami University

Ecology of Costa Rican Orchids

Growing Regions
1. Tropical rain forest
2. Tropical seasonal forest
3. Foot hill forest
4. Cloud forest
This type of woods is quite common and can have different aspects. Usually referred to as the foot hill forest (500-800m above sea level) and mountain cloud forest proper, situated much higher. Those forests have the biggest number of epiphytes, among them orchids. Here one finds plants that “thrive” in cold conditions – Odontoglossums, Miltonias, Masdevalias, Oncidiums, Dendrobiums.
Trunks and branches here are often literally hidden by orchids.
In those places conditions are very similar in different spots (on the soil level and on the tree trunks) and epiphytes often grow on soil or stones.
In mountain forests conditions change considerably with altitude. The higher up; the smaller the trees get and less species are found. Rainfall quantity at first increases, then decreases. The maximum falls on the middle part of the mountain. Temperature also decreases as you ascend. As it gets more cloudy humidity increases, but there is less and less light. In mountain forests there is always fresh air circulation.
Up to 1500 -1700m the number of epiphytes increases, then it starts to decrease. At 2000-3000m this forest resembles some of the forests in temperate climates.

Species distribution
South and Central America. There are approximately 8000 species in Central and South America.
In Brazil and Ecuador there are 2500 species and a bit less in Peru, Venezuela, Costa-Rica and Panama. In those areas grow Cattleya , Laelia, Oncidium species.

3. Gentry, A. H. (1982). Patterns of neotropical plant species diversity. Evolutionary Biology, 15, 1-84.
4. Holbrook, N. M. & Lund, C. P. (1995).Photosynthesis in canopies. In Forest Canopies. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
5. Kernan, C. & Fowler, N. (1995). Differential substrate use by epiphytes in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica: A source of guild structure. Journal of Ecology, 83, 65-73.
6. Matelson, T. J., Nadkarni, N. M., & Longino, J. T. (1993). Longevity of fallen epiphytes in a neotropical montane forest. Ecology, 74, 265-269.
7. Rhoades, F. M. (1995). Nanvascular epiphytes in forest canopies: Worldwide distribution, abundance, and ecological roles. In Forest Canopies. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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