How to get rid of Gmelina trees and how a sustainable hotel opened my eyes

The Gmelina tree or Melina tree (Gmelina arborea) is originally from India and some forests in Asia.

It was introduced in Costa Rica on late 20th century, however due to it’s quick growth and adaptability, it is a very common tree in the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, mostly in the Guanacaste province.

In Marbella and San Juanillo area, which are located about 15 miles North of Nosara in Guanacaste, this invasive tree is taking over many farms and land, negatively affecting the native flora and fauna.

When a branch is cut, it keeps growing and multiplies faster than most plants and trees.

When Ravenala Landscape took over the challenge of designing and ensuring all plants and trees in Olas Verdes Hotel in Nosara were native from Costa Rica, they did an intensive research and planning to obtain the greatest positive impact and become and extension of the adjacent Nosara-Ostional National Wildlife Refuge.

By planting species that provide shelter and food to birds and other animals, a large variety of new birds’ species, including 3 more of hummingbirds, are now commonly seen at Olas Verdes Hotel gardens.

This also created an interesting situation.  When feeding or nesting, these creatures brought seeds of new plants and trees, increasing the native biodiversity of the Olas Verdes Hotel grounds.

It is a kinetic interaction that enriches the microsystem.

Back in San Juanillo area, I noticed my neighbors where cutting the gmelina trees every year, or simply hiring a tractor to push all the trees to one side of their properties.

As gmelina trees grow faster than most trees and their large leaves obstruct the sun light for their competitors, the conditions created by these actions gave the gmelina and greater advantage to displace the native trees, bushes and plants.

That’s way many properties are exclusively covered by gmelina and reducing the variety and quantity of wildlife in the neighborhood. Very sad.

Armed with patience and determination, three years ago we started to cut, strategically selected, all the new gmelina trees and some grown ones, to create some spots reachable by sun light.  Sure enough, soon a few native tree species and plants begun to grow in those spots.Gmelina trees in Costa Rica

Carefully selecting which trees to trim or cut, while keeping corridors for the monkeys, squirrels and similar animals, we nursed the native trees and added more clear spots.

This year, helped by the beginning of the rainy season, we planted over 40 trees of 20 different species to try to reproduce the conditions observed at Olas Verdes Hotel in Nosara.

The recently planted trees will start significantly impacting the microsystem in two to three years.

Less than 20% of the selected area of the project is now covered by gmelina, while the other 80% looks healthy with a huge variety of native trees and plants that will provide additional shelter and food to the local wildlife.

In the next 24-month period, all gmelina trees will be removed and we will have a self-maintained native mini-forest around our home; attracting and acting as a refuge for wildlife, instead of the yearly devastating, eroding and damaging to the ecosystem of the area.Gmelina trees in Costa Rica

Thank you Andre Niederberger, from Ravenala Landscape, and thank you Carl Kish, from Stoke Certified, for such a wonderful lesson that show us the magic of nature’s resilience and for providing an experience that will help us duplicated this process in other affected areas of Guanacaste in Costa Rica.

This is a very ecofriendly approach when considering recovering forests and impacted land.



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