Suiita palm roofs are attributed to the Osa region, a weaving technique used by the Boruca people. Lapa Rios, a sustainable ecolodge, celebrates this traditional architecture and those responsible for the design.
Like all natural building materials, suiita, a 1.5-meter Meso-American endemic palm, must be cut during menguante, the 3—10 day period following a full moon. This harvest practice insures the material’s longest use by providing the best defense against bug infestation and molds. Most roofs last 6 years if tilted at a 50-55 degrees pitch (to ‘wash’ rain quickly).
A mature suiita plant (Asterogyne martiana) produces 6—8 forked leaves yearly. The plant grows slowly, needing almost 10 years before its initial harvest. Our 15-year old plantation (30,000 plants planted experimentally, in both the primary and secondary forest areas) provides leaves used for Lapa Rios repairs. Suiita is cut and sold in bundles of 500 leaves or 'rollos'.’ Each square meter of roof uses 750 leaves. One person working 11 hours each day can weave almost 1,000 leaves, about a 1.5 square meter patch. Suiita roofs are intriguing in both their ability to shelter and beautiful design.
Weaving method: 2 leaves are placed one atop the other and the precisely cut 6-inch stems are bent and tucked between 2 horizontal 1 X 2-inch strips of wooden lath. Once a horizontal row is completely woven a third lath overlays the leaves, trapping them against movement during wind. In our initial 1992 construction, local thatch artist Alfredo Rosales and his 7-team members wove and clamped leaves using lengthwise-split 'walking palm' trunks. Indigenous people knew walking palm (Socratea exorriza) was the strongest primary forest plant, and endured longer than wood. The walking palm, however, was put on Costa Rica's ‘No Cut’ list, necessitating a switch to plantation-grown lumber in 1998. By year 2000, most locally harvested Osa building materials had to be cut and hauled with government permits, a tedious and long process. Lapa Rios supports these practices to maintain the longevity of the Peninsula and the protection of its intense biodiversity.
Suiita palm is planted and labeled near bungalow #5 and behind the restaurant service area.