Does the Tree of Life live in Cabuya, near Pranamar Villas?

Does the Tree of Life live in Cabuya, near Pranamar Villas?

Famous Banyan Tree, photo credit Nancy Goodfellow, Pranamar Villas
Famous Banyan Tree, photo credit Nancy Goodfellow, Pranamar Villas

One of the most famous residents of the small town of Cabuya, Puntarenas, on the Pacific Coast, is a giant tree and impressive Banyan Tree, known in Costa Rica as Higueron or Matapalo.  The tree makes for a beautiful backdrop for photographs because of its series of roots joined together to form the heart of the tree and is a favorite stop for visitors on their way to and from the local beaches. 

The Banyan Tree seeds germinate in the crevices of other trees, starting its life as an epiphyte, its strong roots growing while feeding on the sap of the host tree, eventually covering and strangling it.  That is why is it also known as the “Strangler Fig” or “Matapalo”, which roughly translates to “Killer tree.” The figs it produces are eaten by birds, whose droppings allow for more germination over the cracks of host tree, then aerial roots hang down and take hold when they touch the ground.  This process over time creates an enormous woody trunk.

Higueron's impressive root formations create enormous trunk, photo credit bossertartstudio
Higueron’s impressive root formations create enormous trunk, photo credit bossertartstudio

It is difficult to use such ominous sounding words as “Killer Tree” to refer to the beautiful and enormous Higueron tree on the road from Montezuma to Cabuya.  It has lived a happy life, being admired and photographed by tourists and passersby.  Impossible to know exactly how long it has been there, decades for sure.  It was even awarded the title “Most Exceptional Tree in Costa Rica” in 2009 by the INBIO, the National Institute for Biodiversity.

Divine Kalpavriksha Tree, image credit Wikipedia
Divine Kalpavriksha Tree, image credit Wikipedia

Trees have countless symbolisms attributed to them, and the Banyan Tree, which happens to be the national tree of India, is venerated for its ability to live and grow for centuries, thus representing longevity and immortality.  In Hindu mythology, the Kalpavriksha, or Tree of Life, or World Tree, is divine and may fulfil wishes and assist in material gains.  Vishnu, a Hindu deity, in one of his incarnations, is shown under the shade of a Banyan Tree, teaching humanity lessons of philosophy and sciences, and initiating them in the mysteries of life and death.

Vishnu under Banyan tree, image credit Rajesh Haldar
Vishnu under Banyan tree, image credit Rajesh Haldar

The Higueron Tree has medicinal uses, the milky white latex extracted from its leaves or figs has antiseptic properties and may be used to cauterize wounds.  Its leaves and bark may be mixed with other ingredients for treatments from mouth ulcers, to skin diseases, to baldness.

So during your stay at Pranamar Villas and Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica, make sure you take the time to stop by and visit the giant Higueron on the road to Cabuya.  You might get more than just a photo opportunity and a cool social media post, you might be inspired to sit, reflect and meditate on what this tree of life could teach you.  Will it be perseverance, strength, peace, growth, serenity? Come and see for yourself.

Higueron Tree, photo credit oliquick
Higueron Tree, photo credit oliquick

Article by Katie Widdowson