This Killer Fig in the way of a fence being built to protect a restaurant across the street from my condo. Instead of cutting it down, they fenced around it, then fenced it. “Peace With Nature” former President Oscar Arias proclaimed.
There is a bit of disconnect happening here in Costa Rica. In a country that survives – no, thrives – off tourism, the last thing any official agency wants to have open for discussion is the killer trees on the loose all over the countryside. Yes – Killer Trees. Figs, to be exact.
A few friends, my husband and myself went out to investigate this threat, and after running several road blocks, we finally located an unguarded specimen. My husband, ever the courageous fellow when it comes to vicious trees, approached despite the extreme danger.
To get an idea of the vicious attack that had occurred here nearly 500 years ago, I feel one of the victims’ relatives should be brought into the discussion.
This lonely Coyol palm is the last one left, suffering from a painful root condition has kept it from escaping with over fifty other palms which used to inhabit this small valley. When asked about its prospects, it told me – through an interpreter – to go ask its parents, a pair of well-to-do trees that had escaped to a new, landscaped home near Vulcan Arenal, and had even built themselves a protective fence and perpetual waterfall. So, I did.
When approached for comment, the parent palms would respond with nothing but “What?”, “Excuse me”, and, “Sorry, but this waterfall makes it hard to hear.” Again, all this came through an interpreter, and I’ll have to report their responses as he relayed them. I didn’t sense much remorse from them myself, and decided to return to the scene of the original crime.
Inside this pathological Killer Fig is the remains of a member of the Coyol palm family. Our guide/interpreter, Miguel, explained that these dispassionate murderers start out as a vine that wraps itself around the trunk of the unsuspecting victim, then given a few decades, engulfs and strangles the pitiful palm.
Given another hundred years or so, the Killer Fig begins branching out, extending sucker shoots down to the ground for support. By then the palm is nothing but a memory, and the murderous fig starts moving toward a future victim. I couldn’t locate my husband, which is not unusual, but the muffled sounds coming from the base of the tree drew me in to investigate.
Besides engulfing and killing the palm, the Killer Fig had destroyed two wooden benches built around its base, a plastic bucket, two fence posts, and I’m beginning to suspect, my husband. I asked Miguel if the tree would be of any danger to us, and he replied that if an elephant stood by the base that vines would eventually engulf it also, like so many unlucky souls before. I called out my husband’s name a couple of times, and not hearing any clear response for help, Miguel and I made our way back to the SUV. We left a note for my husband, if he ever showed up, telling him to meet us back at a local restaurant where we would wait for a reasonable amount of time…about the time it takes to have a decent lunch, and then he was on his own.
It’s not the first time he’s disappeared, only to show up a week or two later with an unbelievable story to explain his absence.
So, if there’s a lesson to be gotten out of this cover-up by the Costa Rican government, it’s be on your guard at all times. Think about that the next time you’re watering that cute little Ficus tree that you’re mother-in-law bought you for your last birthday.
Ta-Ta for now, from the Costa Rica, the land of sun, sand, surf, and Killer Figs – trees with no mercy for palm, man, bench, or beast.