Lankester Garden was officially created in 1973, when it was donated to the Universidad de Costa Rica (Costa Rica's main state university.) It first started as a private garden belonging to the British born orchid and nature enthusiast Charles H. Lankester (1879-1969).
Ticket office and shopMr. Lankester, after his marriage, acquired some lands in Costa Rica with the idea of turning them into a coffee plantation. As the business grew, he started to collect orchids that he found in and around his property.
In time he got in contact with Mr. Oakes Ames, an American botanist specializing in orchids from Harvard University, to widen his knowledge in what was turning into a real passion. It was the beginning of a very successful 20 year collaboration between them. It is said that from all the orchids studied and described by Ames, a great amount of them were originally supplied by Lankester.
After Mr. Lankester's death, the American Orchid Society and the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust purchased the property in an effort to have all the specimens preserved. On March 2nd, 1973, the property was donated to the Universidad de Costa Rica under the condition to turn it into a botanical garden.
Since then Lankester Botanical Garden's mission has been to host and promote orchids' and other epiphytic flora's research in order to preserve the world's biological diversity and to inspire and improve people' s quality of life.
Orchids nurseryLankester Garden houses approximately 3 000 species of plants mainly epiphytes, of those 15 000 specimens of approximately 1 000 species of orchids. Costa Rica alone is home to about 1 400 species (~25% of which are endemic) of the slightly over 26 000 accepted ones; the exact number of existent orchid species is unknown. Orchids occur in almost every habitat apart from deserts and glaciers. The great majority are found in the tropics, mostly Asia, and South and Central America.
Lankester Garden boasts a renowned collection of exotic orchids, among them the Grammatophyllum speciosum commonly known as the Tiger Orchid, the tallest of orchids (it can grow over 2,5 metres) , and also an extensive collection of miniature orchids like the Platystele jungermannioides, the world's tiniest known orchid.
Bromeliad specimenA large collection of bromeliads and heliconias can also be found in the Garden's 11 hectares, as well as a section for cacti and succulents, palms and bamboos. The fern section along with the Japanese Garden are the newest acquisitions. The Japanese Garden and ponds were donated by the Japanese government and inaugurated in May 2009, after 3 years of hard work.
Slightly less than half of the property is covered with secondary growth forest, it was recovered from what originally were abandoned pastures and crops. The forest is also home to a large number of small mammals, reptiles, insects and 58 species of local and migratory birds. Since the inauguration of the Japanese ponds a large quantity of aquatic birds have started to visit and a new survey is now needed though.
The Lankester Botanical Garden is open every single day of the year, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, although you may remain inside the premises until 5:30 p.m. Visitors are warmly welcomed at the entrance by bilingual staff (Spanish & English), some of them even have a third language like French or German, as does Mr. Alan Salas who was kind enough to provide us with a short interview.
Mr. Salas told us that the Garden receives on average 35 000 visitors per year, most of them coming between December and April, the driest months. Even though it is between the months of March and April when numerous species are blooming, during September and October when it rains the most, you can see a very green and lush Garden teeming with new life.
You can take the self-guided tour following the 1,5 km trail or, by calling a couple of days in advance, you can reserve a guided tour (in Spanish, English, French or German); the cost varies between $35 and $50, depending on the size of the group. There is also a shop where you can find a wide variety of botanical literature, handcrafted goods, plant seeds and baby orchids, as well as souvenirs. Most of the plants that are sold at the shop are pre-approved for export by the Costa Rican and the US Agricultural authorities, still you should ask to insure that the plants will not be confiscated when you return to your country. The shop opens from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Japanese pondClases are also taught at the Garden, from basic gardening to specialized care of orchids, and the new bonzai workshops. In general they do not have a fixed schedule, you need to check their site to find out when the next one will be available.
Through the Lankester Botanical Garden's site you can also access their herbarium as well as look up specialized information in Epidendra: their botanical databases; the latter is a very ambitious project, launched in 2008, in collaboration with Harvard University, The Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew (UK) , the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (Natural Viena Museum, from Germany), the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid (the Royal Botanical Garden from Madrid, Spain) and the «Marie Selby» Botanical Gardens (in Florida, USA.) Epidendra is willed to be the most relevant database in the world regarding the botany and conservation of the Orchidaceae family.
For more pictures of the Lankester Botanical Garden, please click here and visit our gallery.