The Tabacon Plant
A Costa Rican Icon
The anthurium salvinii, better known as the “tabacon” plant, is an iconic native Costa Rican plant that grows practically everywhere throughout the country: in the wild and in local gardens.
This tropical plant can be found from Mexico, all the way to Argentina, and also on some Caribbean islands. It belongs to the araceae family and is an epiphyte, meaning it grows on the surface of other plants. In the wild, tabacons grow on trees beneath the canopy where they are sheltered and receive dappled light. Sometimes, you can find them growing on rocks and in crevices. Other tabacon plants occasionally fall to the ground and then continue to grow in the soil, becoming terrestrial plants.
The anthurium salvinii gets the nickname tabacon because its foliage resembles a tobacco plant. However, many plants similar to the anthurium salvinii are also commonly referred to as tabacon, so it can be confusing sometimes knowing the difference!
Anthuriums are best distinguished by their inflorescence, a flower spike that consists of a spadix and a spathe. The tabacon flowers during summer and produces a lovely purple coloured spadix.
One tabacon characteristic is that it does not mind being rootbound. In cultivation, you can grow this plant in an orchid-like soil or an airy and well-draining potting mix. In local nurseries, you will commonly find it growing quite wonderfully in mucky soil. It’s not unusual to see the large tabacon roots growing upward, pushing their way out of the ground and sometimes even cracking the pot. This plant sure has some very powerful roots!
The tabacon can grow very large, with long, tongue-shaped leaves reaching one meter in length. Due to the extremely large leaves it produces, the tabacon has an incredible ability to oxygenate its environment. Having an anthurium salvinii in your home is a great way to help purify the air.
There is a beautiful naturally-growing tabacon plant specimen in Jacó Walk at the main entrance. If you are ever around that end of town, go take a peek beneath the giant tree and look up to see a beautiful example of this tropical queen. Tucked away at the base of the branches, this anthurium is happily hanging out in the shade.
The tabacon makes a wonderful houseplant that is easy to care for, has low light requirements and will, in time, grow up to become a real show stopper. It prefers moist soil and a humid environment.
While you can commonly find this plant at many nurseries and plant boutiques, the anthurium salvinii is a protected species in Costa Rica and it is illegal to harvest these from the wild. We recommend that you purchase anthurium salvinii from a licensed grower or seller.