Botanical Gardens in San Andrés, Colombia

January 16, 2013, San Andrés, Colombia

Our favourite attraction on San Andrés to date is the Botanical Gardens (el Jardín Botánico de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia). The garden has only been open for three years, so some of the plants are still small, and the garden itself is not huge — but the whole experience has been brilliantly designed. We opted for a guided tour. We were with a Spanish speaking group; however, the local guide moved between Spanish and English fluently; I really don’t know how he did it, quite amazing. [Also, fun for us to hear the Spanish version too — we got a free language lesson with the price of admission.]

The others on the tour were tourists from Bogotá. One avuncular man came across as charming and also very intelligent — we could see that he loved to chat with people and would have really enjoyed chatting with us and vice versa. I expect his written English was quite passable but I was embarrassed that I couldn’t understand his English pronunciation. We gave up after a few awkward tries. I do wish I had learned more Spanish before this trip.

The garden and thus the tour were divided into three parts.

Part one was a lesson in plant evolution. Five triangular plots showcased plants ranging from the most primitive (ferns) with no flower and proper seeds to the highly evolved and beautiful orchids and bromeliads.

This is a naked tree. It has no leaves and no flowers --

This is a naked tree. It has no leaves and no flowers — just green, fleshy branches.

This vine fascinated me. (Sorry I can’t remember the name.) As it grows up, the leaves grow larger, and conversely, the leaves shrink as they grow down — quite remarkable and quite consistent. See two photos below.

Small leaves at the bottom and big leaves at the top.

Small leaves at the bottom and big leaves at the top.

And another more dramatic example: the leaves at the top are huge.

And a more dramatic example: the leaves at the top are huge and the ones at the bottom, tiny.

Part two highlighted plants with different uses: fruits, medicines, woody (for example, teak, which grows well here), ornamental, industrial. Our guide had grown up on the island and his first hand experience with some of the plants made his talk even more engaging. He showed us the plant that his mother had used to cure his childhood asthma and the variety of orange that his great-grandmother eats everyday, claiming it is the secret of her long life (still lucid at 103 years).

In the industrial plant section, I was inordinately thrilled to see a little Jatropha plant, having heard references to it for years. Jatropha produces a seed that is very high in oil and that is being grown for biodiesel.

This is Jatropha.

This is Jatropha.

Part three was a simple stroll through the forest — this was natural forest as it had always been. It made for a lovely conclusion to a good tour.

Our trail through the forest. Walking around the huge almond tree.

Our trail through the forest. Walking around the huge almond tree.

Jane attempting to swing on a jungle vine like Tarzan.

Jane attempting to swing on a jungle vine like Tarzan.

A baby coconut tree.

A baby coconut tree.

3 thoughts on “Botanical Gardens in San Andrés, Colombia

  1. I’m wondering if the plant (small leaves @ bottom, larger leaves @ top) is named “Pothos”? I enjoyed this post :)

    Stay safe “ya’ll” :) (figured you’d like a “taste” of home after struggling w/the Spanish language) :)

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