We are NOT in El Salvador as tourists; therefore, sightseeing is never part of our itinerary. But my curiosity was piqued when a Salvadoran friend sent a photo of his family and him with a stand of huge bamboo trees as a backdrop; I was intrigued. “Could you take us there to see this place on our next trip?” I asked him. “No problem; I’d be happy to take you,” he answered.
He didn’t forget my request months later and actually offers this garden, Jardin Botanical Garden or an alternative botanical garden up on a volcano, which he says is nicer but a bit further away and requires some hiking.
Since today is my maiden excursion out of the guesthouse other than doctors’ appointments in over a week of sickness, I opt for the closer location making sure that there are “baños” (bathrooms) available. I am going stir-crazy and desperately need to get outside in the fresh air, and we hope to get some nice photos for our website as well. Knowing it is the dry season, we are unsure what will be blooming but take the chance.
These orchids are blooming early this year.
The garden is quite close to the city. In fact, it is surrounded by an industrial park, making one wonder how the 3,500 species of plants growing in it can survive amid all the industry.
Originally this location was the site of a volcanic crater’s lagoon. When the lagoon was drained following an 1873 earthquake, this fertile area was left behind.
The gardens themselves are arranged in 32 distinctly different zones based on plant species. Greeting us right inside the gate is the impressive orchid garden. I’ve never seen orchids growing naturally in the outside soil before, only in humid greenhouses. Although we are early for the full showing which begins in March, one type of lovely pink orchid is blooming abundantly. There is a desert section filled with various cacti, a medicinal zone, an aquatic area complete with a descendant of a per-historic fish specimen looking ½ alligator and ½ fish in the pond. There are bromeliad and begonia zones.
Away from the formal zones in the rear of the gardens is a narrow dirt climbing trail through natural habitat. A sign at its entrance warns of the fauna one may encounter including deer, reptiles, and serpents. SERPENTS?! The young son of the friend who is with us has a snake phobia and is now in full panic attack. I don’t like snakes either but offer to lead the way on the single line path keeping my eyes on both the path below and the trees above. Coral snakes are among the poisonous ones in the country. I don’t know if they are here or not, but we don’t want to risk a close encounter. Alas, the stand of giant bamboos I long to see is in this section. I wonder how old they are.
Approaching the grove of giant bamboo
Around one lake we find numerous iguanas sunning themselves or chasing one another around the trees. We don’t see any, but our friend draws our attention to the sign for the “agoutis,” a rodent native to Central and South American rain forests whose jumping is similar to kangaroos. He has seen them here before.
Surprisingly there are more flowers blooming today than I expected to see. Besides the pink orchids, red poinsettias, orange bird-of-paradise, multi-colored bougainvillea, yellow angel’s trumpet, and red heliconia bloom prominently.
There are gigantic trees and huge century plants, Jurassic Park-sized fern trees, and traveler’s palms.
Angel’s trumpets are a personal favorite
This is not a large garden, but it makes a nice respite for us today to get outside the city and see some lovely flora concentrated within one small area. Most items are well-labeled and the beds are well-maintained.
Well-groomed and marked beds are throughout garden
The little boy joining us today ended his visit at the available nice children’s playground, helping him forget all about the creepy snakes he was so terrified of seeing. The admission price of $1 can’t be beat!