The Rainbow Trees of Arenal, Costa Rica
By Shannon Farley
Where in Costa Rica can you see trees the color of a rainbow?
At Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa by the Arenal Volcano!
Part of the award-winning sustainable hotel’s reforestation program includes colorful Rainbow Eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus deglupta). These unique trees with multi-hued bark thrive in very humid tropical forests, like at Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica.
The trees get their rainbow coloring from their outer bark which sheds several times a year to reveal a bright green inner layer. The bark then matures and darkens to blue, purple, orange, and even maroon tones. The previous season’s bark peels off in vertical strips to expose the brightly colored new layer below, resulting in vertical streaks of its rainbow hues.
How and why did reforestation begin at Arenal Observatory Lodge?
When the Aspinall family of Costa Rica in 1973 acquired the 870-acre farm that would later become the Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa, it was a neglected cattle ranch. Only about 270 acres still had natural primary rainforest with rivers and waterfalls, and the land needed reforestation to protect the soil on the hillsides and highlands from erosion.
Starting immediately in 1973, the family reforested approximately 297 acres with trees of Honduran Pine, Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta), and Saligna Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus saligna), also called Sydney blue gum. These tall fast-growing trees have flourished in the rich volcanic soil and humid climate by Arenal Volcano, and today 43 years later some reach to close to 100 feet (30 meters) tall. You can see them all around the Arenal hotel and along the 11 kilometers (7 miles) of well-maintained trails throughout the farm.
The Saligna eucalyptus, which originates in Australia, is the traditional eucalyptus most people recognize. The trunks of these hardwood trees are smooth pale gray or white with a wide “skirt” of rough brownish bark at their base, and dark green leaves.
You also can see some of the pine and eucalyptus wood from the plantation, which fell in storms or was selectively cut to maintain the forest, in construction at the lodge. Remaining open areas have been reforested with native or local tree species.
These reforestation plantations endure today at Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa and are part of the lodge owners’ commitment to environmental protection.