Costa Rica, lying between Nicaragua and Panama and thus centered in isthmian Central America – a biogeographical funnel between South and North America, densely rich in species and geological history – is also one of the few tropical countries to have an accurate, up-to-date, specialist- and specimen-based count of its known flora. Intensive and continuing exploration over the last 25 years has resulted in a large increase in the number of new species. Currently, more than 9 700 species of native or naturalized vascular plants (including a few commercially cultivated exotics) are known from the country. The Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica is a series of illustrated identification manuals, providing the general public, students, and scientists alike with the most current, basic, and critical information on the largest subgroup of those, the seed plants. The work will be published in seven volumes and includes a general introductory volume in English and Spanish. The Manual is the first comprehensive Spanish-language account of the Costa Rican flora.
Fabaceae, with 593 species, is the largest family in this volume, and the second largest in the Costa Rican flora. It includes almost the entire range of growth forms, but is most notable for its many important timber trees, as well as herbaceous food crops (the beans). The next two largest families in Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica: Volume V are Euphorbiaceae (178 species) and Gesneriaceae (141 species); the first is also composed of many growth forms, the second almost entirely of herbs (many of them epiphytes). These three families account for over 60% of the total number of species in the volume. This identification manual includes brief formal descriptions and informal notes about each of a total of 30 families, 355 genera, and 1 422 species. Keys to all the genera and species are also included. The treatments are illustrated with 412 line drawings, 30 black-and-white photographs, and eight pages of color plates.