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Welfia georgii at La Selva Biological Station
Welfia georgii


Family: Arecacaea
Genus: Welfia
Species: georgii
Common Name: Corozo


Range and Abundance:
Welfia georgii is a common subcanopy palm that is abundant in Costa Rican lowlands and tropical wet forests. In La Selva, Costa Rica it has been seen to reach densities of 54 adults/ha. On our trip to Costa Rica we saw these palms everywhere! The trails at La Selva Biological Station contained an abundance of these palms. In fact, when we asked our tour guide, Kenneth, where we could find them he immediately turned around and pointed to a young red-colored W. georgii standing beside us. Just a few steps further into the forest there was a full grown palm, featured in the above picture.


Growth:
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Young Welfia georgii - notice the red coloration
Early on, W. georgii develops as a rosette, establishing an axis below the ground of sufficient diameter to support the tree in maturity. Later growth is vertical and does not involve any more growth in diameter. Seedlings can be found from major light gaps to full canopy coverage, however those seedlings found in high-light environments grow more rapidly. The young palms are typically red in color, whereas the older palms have green leaves. These trees are reproductive between 6 to 20 meters in height and don't usually exceed 20 meters. Growth is generally linear with respect to size. The number of years it takes for the tree to achieve maximum height, 20 meters, is 31 years for the fastest growing trees and up to 80 years for the slow growing trees.

Interactions with Other Plants and Animals:
The epiphytic fern Trichomas godmanni seems to occur more frequently on the trunks of
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Base of a Welfia georgii Tree
Welfia georgii than on the trunk of dicotyledonous trees. The fern has adhesive hairs that help attachment to the smooth trunk of the palm. The smooth texture of the palm's trunk may hinder other ferns from attaching to it and it allows for less water and nutrients to exist on the surface, thus reducing the total amount of epiphytes on the palm that would compete with T. godmanni.

The continued growth of these palms throughout the rainforest is contingent upon the spreading of their seeds. The seeds are typically dispersed by a variety of larger birds and arboreal and terrestrial mammals. The peccaries often eat the
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Welfia georgii Fruit

fruit of the palm and then once theseeds
pass through their digestive tracts they
make their way back into the soil of the
rainforest. While in Costa Rica, we
often came across the tracks of
peccaries clustered about fallen fruit
from this palm.







Other:

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A Thatch Roof

Welfia georgii can be harvested
for palmito, wood and/or thatch.
Palmito is edible palm heart that
can be added to different dishes
and the wood from the palm can
be used to build a variety of
things. In Costa Rica, however,
W. georgii has been recognized
as the most important palm for
thatch because it is the only
native palm that is or has been
"actively" managed. Active management involves carefully maintaining the existing palms to allow for future economic profit from them. For instance, if a forest is being cleared to make a pasture, the palms will be left standing and only a few of their leaves will be utlilized at a time in order to maintain the integrity of the palm supply. The thatch acquired from these trees is often used to build roofing that can provide shelter from the heavy rains typical of this area.

Citations:
Joyal E. 1994. Palm Ethnoecology in the Saripiqui Region of Costa Rica. J Ethnobiol. 14(2):161-172.

Moran R.C. 2004. The Occurrence of Trichomanes godmanni (Hymenphyllaceae) on Welfia georgii (Arecaceae) at the La Selva Biological Station. American Fern Journal 94(2): 70-76.

Schupp E.W. 1989. Differential predation of Welfia georgii Seeds in Treefall Gaps and the Forest Understory. Biotropica 21(3):200-203.
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Welfia georgii at La SelvaBiological Station