The California Native International Adventures

Since 1983

From The California Native Newsletter:

In the Clouds at Monteverde

Cloud Forest
Located high up in the mountains on Costa Rica's continental divide, Monteverde, literally “Green Mountain,” has been internationally acclaimed for its environmentally conscious conservation efforts and tourism strategies.

The mountain community is best known for its world famous cloud forests. A cloud forest is a unique forest where clouds drift in among the trees, cloaking the woods in a constant soft mist and giving it a mysterious fairy-tale quality. At Monteverde, northeasterly trade winds, filled with moisture, blow in from the Atlantic Ocean, sweep up the Continental Divide, then condense into clouds on the forested slopes.

In the cloud forest, the trunks and branches of the trees are almost entirely covered by mosses, ferns, and epiphytes. Epiphytes are plants which grow on other plants, but they are not parasites, and as many as one hundred different species can live on a single tree without harming it. The epiphytes act as sponges, absorbing and storing the moisture and nutrients from the mist. Aerial roots and vines droop down through the fog, adding to the dramatic quietude, while the orchids, which grow high up in the canopy, liven up the scene with their bright colors.

A great number of plant and animal species live in the cloud forest, and many are unique to this delicate environment. A wide variety of birds can be spotted here, but the most impressive of all is the Resplendent Quetzal, which looks more like the product of a papier-maché piñata factory than a living creature. Predominately green, the Quetzal has a brilliant red breast, a helmetlike crest, and remarkably long streamers for tail feathers.

Monteverde was first settled in the 1950's by a group of Quakers from Alabama who migrated to Costa Rica to escape the militarism of the United States. The Quakers, who are famous for the cheeses they produce in the area, were instrumental in having the Monteverde area designated as a biological reserve.

To visit Monteverde and its cloud forests, you must travel two hours up a 25 mile steep, unpaved road. Efforts to pave the road have been vehemently opposed by members of the Monteverde community, who believe that by making access to the area a little difficult they limit visitors to those who are environmentally conscious and truly interested in what this unique area has to offer.

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