January, 2022
Important-because of COVID, trip may be becancelled either by UVM or because Costa Rica is not open to U.S. Visitors
so far so good, May 15, 2021
led by Michael Sundue ( and Dave Barrington (

General Goals:

1. to compare the diversity of flowering plants and ferns in a diversity of tropical American forest types to be encountered in Costa Rica, including as many moisture and temperature regimes as possible.

2. to appreciate the relationship between the Costa Rican people and their landscape.


The overall goal of the course is to study tropical flowering plant diversity as it relates to variety of forest types in Costa Rica. Our activity in each of the forests will be as follows. We will survey the forest for flowering-plant and fern diversity, assembling a list of plants to the genus level. We will dissect flowers and fruits on site  to teach the morphology and taxonomy of tropical flowering plants; from this activity, we will build a working knowledge of the field recognition characters useful for identifying tropical plants. We emphasize field recognition of flowering-plant families, because this training is transportable to any other tropical forest in the world.
    We provide additional insight into the flowering plants and ferns of Costa Rica in the following disciplines: 1) the historical biogeography of tropical American plants, with emphasis on the migration of northern and southern elements in the origin of the Costa Rican flora; 2) the vertical structure of the tropical forests that we encounter using a life-forms approach, through training in the recognition and  classification of the plants we encounter into different life forms; 3) the pollination and dispersal ecology of the flowering plants we encounter, and 4) the economic significance of the these plants and the families to which they belong.
    Many students choose to collect small fragments for reference: these are taped into a loose-leaf notebook (particularly artistic types simply draw the plants).  Digital photographs have become a major tool in learning the overwhelming diversity in these forests.   We may also do short-term group research projects at some sites. 



(Cited forest types are those of the Holdridge Life Zone System.)

Cerro de la Muerte: high montane rain páramo and high montane wet forest dominated by oak species - mixture of Andean and Cordilleran Western North American elements - many familiar genera. Simple lodging in a roadside restaurant and rooming house.

Monteverde: three forst types! Premontane and lower montane wet forest and rain forest (the classic cloud forest of the media) rich in exotic species of all types, dominated by figs, avocados, etc. Lodging and meals at a biological reserve above the town, at the edge of original forest. 

Osa (Corcovado): tropical rain forest with Amazonian affinities - including legumes, brazilnut family, Bombacaceae etc etc -  hike into the national park along the beach with a guide and camp on the beach, explore the forest from the beach.

Santa Rosa (Guanacaste): tropical (=sea-level) moist forest dominated by legume trees, Sapindales, etc; evergreen but seasonally very dry (some trees are deciduous). At the coast itself there are small tracts of true tropical dry forest, mangrove associations, seabeach flora, and other coastal plant associations. Camping at a national park with running water and cold showers.



Overall cost estimate is $1400 in country, all expenses included. Airfare is extra. The $1400 includes your share of the van in Costa Rica, room and board.  It does not include the cost of gifts and the like.  Some financial support may be available, not likely.


The PBIO 232 Course: s
You must sign up for Plant Biology  232 for two credits.  You must have our permission to go on the trip to register for the course; we will do an over-ride once we have talked.   YOU MAY SIGN UP FOR THE COURSE ANY TIME IN THE FALL. 
Additional information below.

Meetings: those who are able (that is at UVM) will meet several times during fall 2021 before the trip to go over the science and logistics of the experience.
Practicalities: You must arrange your own air transportation to and from Costa Rica -- do this AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE.   I will make arrangements so that once you arrive in the country, your rendezvous with the group is easy. You will be responsible for seeking your own health advice for the trip, but will find comfort in knowing that we have had no major health problem in 21 previous trips.  Costa Rica remains a safe places to travel, and we are expert in reducing the health and safety risks Your personal equipment will need to be compact but not spartan, no backpacking with all equipment required but plan for walking with a fairly good load for a mile.

What to do if you want to go:

You must have taken Plant Biology 109 (offered both summer or fall) or an equivalent introductory plant systematics course to go (dendrology is also adequate preparation). Ask to be put on our list of participants at any time (email,, first come first serve with certain restrictions. These are - first priority goes to anyone who has taken Plant Biology 241 (next offered, fall of 2021), then UVM undergraduates, then UVM graduate students. Others encouraged to inquire, especially from other universities. Two to three spaces reserved for others who will add to the trip experience. Total group size is  about 20.