Ear Tree – By Jack Ewing

You won’t find the Guanacaste Tree (Enterolobium cyclocarpum), the national tree of Costa Rica, in a dense forest. Look for it in an open pasture almost anywhere in the country. I used to think the name of the tree came from the province of Guanacaste, but actually both come from náhuatil, the basic language of the Aztecs and Mayas. The English common name is the “Ear Tree”. One look at the seed pod will tell you why.


The seeds are very hard and difficult to germinate. Cattle sometimes eat the seed bearing pods which then pass through the animal’s digestive tract. After exposure to the bovine’s digestive juices the seeds will readily germinate from the middle of a pile of manure left by the cow in a pasture. If conditions are favorable the seeds will germinate even where there are no cows. The tiny seedling in the photo germinated under the tall tree which is only about 30 years old..


It won’t get much taller, but will continue to increase in girth for many years to come. The Guanacaste being embraced by the two tree huggers, biologist guide Rigo Pereira and your author, is between 40 and 50 years old.