A Brush With Passionate Bats   4 comments

Philip Davison Nature Diaries. Bosque del Cabo Rain Forest Lodge.

As the dry season progresses and the temperatures continue to soar then the ground begins to dry and crack.  Nearly two months into the dry season and the grass has lost its green appearance turning a pale brown.  A layer of dirt is building up on the leaves of the plants, particularly on the roadside verges where cars have thrown up a dust storm with every passing, giving the vegetation a dull, tired look.  The cicadas have started to call during the day but not with the intensity you would expect at this time of year.  As the sun starts to sink low on the horizon the cicadas go silent, momentarily, until the sundown cicadas pick up the volume once more.  The butterflies are increasing in numbers but way below the levels normally associated with nine weeks into the dry season.  I have been fortunate enough to see one new species that I have never encountered before, a tiny little Alcandra Skipper, (Gorgothion alcandra), that I would probably not have noticed if it had not been for my looking at two other larger butterflies in the same location.

Gorgothion alcandra. Hesperiidae. Pyrginae

Alcandra Skipper, (Gorgothion alcandra)

Eurema daira. Pieridae. Coliadinae.

Barred Yellow, (Eurema daira)

Whitened Eyed-metalmark. Riodinidae. Riodininae

Whitened Eyed-metalmark, (Mesosemia zonalis)

Brushes for the Bats

Most of the trees that would normally be expected to have started blooming are devoid of flowers.  However, there are exceptions.  The Pochote tree, (Pachira quinata), which is not native to the tropical wet forests of south west Costa Rica but rather the dry forests of the north west, is currently producing a huge number of creamy colored flowers that resemble shaving brushes.  During the course of one night it can produce many flowers which are pollinated by bats and hawkmoths.  Next day the spent blooms all fall and litter the ground beneath the tree.  Another tree in the same family, Malvaceae, is also flowering at the moment, the Barrigon, (Pseudobombax septenatum).  Like the Pochote the flowers are creamy white but the anthers are more numerous and dense.  They are, once more, bat pollinated.

Pachira quinata. Malvaceae.

Pochote Flower, (Pachira quinata)

Pseudobombax septenatum. Malvaceae.

Barrigon Flower, (Pseudobombax septenatum)

Passion for Sky Blue

Some of the vines are now flowering.  The Sky Vine, (Thunbergia grandiflora), as well as two species of passion vine, the Perfumed Passionflower, (Passiflora vitifolia), and the Giant Grenadilla, (Passiflora quadrangularis), have both produced a colorful display of blooms this week.  The Sky Vine winds its way through the tree tops and is largely goes unnoticed until it flowers.  Then the large blueish purple trumpet shaped flowers can be seen decorating the canopy in contrast to the green of the leaves.  Sky Vine originates from India but has been long cultivated in Costa Rican gardens from where it escaped into the wild.  The flowers are pollinated by bees during the day and by bats at night.

Thunbergia grandiflora. Acanthaceae.

Sky Vine Flowers, (Thunbergia grandiflora)

Both of the passion vines are more obvious at a lower level.  There are over 400 species of Passion Vine but the flowers are all more or less similar in form and function.  In the centre of the flower is a nectar producing disc.  A corona of stiff hair-like structures surrounds this.  These protect the nectar supply from non-pollinating creatures  The Perfumed Passion Vine has scarlet red flowers which attract pollinators, in this case hummingbirds.  The Giant Grenadilla has very showy purple flowers which are pollinated by large bees.

Passiflora vitifolia. Passifloraceae.

Perfumed Passion Vine Flower, (Passiflora vitifolia)

Passiflora quadrangularis. Philip Davison. Felipe del Bosque.

Grand Grenadilla Flower, (Passiflora quadrangularis)

Why Passion Vine is the common question.  The deeply religious early Spanish settlers could see within the structure of the flowers a symbolic representation of the Passion of Christ.  The three styles being the nails, the five anthers being Christs wounds, the corona is the crown of thorns, the tendrils –  the whips, the pointed leaves – the Holy Lance and the ten petals are the ten faithful apostles.

Philip Davison is a Biologist, Writer and Photographer Based in Costa Rica

4 responses to “A Brush With Passionate Bats

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  1. Thank you Phillip, for the wonderful newsletters with so much information on the flora and fauna of the area! I really enjoy them!



  2. Philip,
    Your photography is amazing! I feel like I am in Costa Rica looking directly at the flower, butterfly and even the snakes! Thank you for sharing your tremendous knowledge of nature with us. I look forward to your posts.


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