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Drawing Straws, Naturally, at Vallarta Botanical Garden

August 29, 2018

The straight, hollow segments of the Rhipidocladum racemiflorum bamboo are nearly perfectly proportioned for drinking out of, and look super cool in your favorite tropical cocktail. (Photo: Eduardo Ruiz-Sanchez)

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Presently, there's a major movement around the world to curb back on the unnecessary overconsumption of plastic - and for good reason: we're contaminating our planet with this synthetic substance.

Plastic shopping bags and disposable water bottles have been among the primary targets for years because of the enormous amounts of them that end up in landfills, rivers, and oceans. Single-use plastic straws are among the latest items under the crosshairs for elimination as tiny elements of a major plastic problem that has grown to epic proportions. From the EU to California, progressive lawmakers and businesses are doing their part to squash the use of straws.


But what does this mean for tourists to celebrated tropical destinations such as Mexico's beloved Puerto Vallarta? Surely we wouldn't consider removing the colorful straws that join chunks of luscious fruit and vibrant flowers adorning the glass of your margaritas or mojitos!

The Vallarta Botanical Garden now offers a natural renewable solution - cuttings from a native bamboo, Rhipidocladum racemiflorum. The straight, hollow segments of this plant are nearly perfectly proportioned for drinking out of and look super cool in your favorite tropical cocktail.

Known locally as carricillo (a catchall common name that is also applied to Chusquea liebmannii and other local native bamboos) it has even more harmonious monikers in Veracruz, the eastern limit of its range, where it is known as chiquián or chiquilla - terms of endearment that we find quite appropriate.

These environmentally conscious beverage accessories are grown right on site at the Vallarta Botanical Garden and are sustainably harvested to ensure a steady supply for the future. While many people are habituated to throwing away their straws after just a single use, you can easily increase their lifespan if you give them a quick rinse and let them dry out thoroughly between uses.

Two bamboo experts who recently visited the Vallarta Botanical Garden, Dany Ramos (San Diego Zoo) and Dr. Eduardo Ruiz-Sanchez (University of Guadalajara) told us that these straws would last for years if thoroughly dried in the sun and then treated with natural oils or waxes such as neem oil or beeswax.

They also gave us tips for reproducing this plant from rhizomes (specialized underground stems) and told us that we'll soon have a bonanza of an opportunity to propagate this plant in enormous quantities when it goes into bloom. This particular bamboo only flowers once in roughly six years and Dr. Ruiz told us that it definitely hasn't bloomed in the past four years.

So someday soon, we'll have more chiquián seeds than we can shake a bamboo stick at - literally millions of them. This is one small way to begin turning the tide on an environmental problem that we as a society have contributed towards for far too long. So help us make a difference: how else can you go green?

Visit the internationally famous Vallarta Botanical Garden located just 30 minutes south of Old Town at Km. 24 on Highway 200 and easily accessible by public transportation and taxi. This 64 acre wildlife preserve and botanical garden have something fun for everyone. See plantings of vanilla, chocolate, and hundreds of other botanical delights, and don't forget to bring your swimsuit for a refreshing dip in the jungle river. The Garden is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (closed Mondays from April 1 to December 1). Garden admission is just $200 pesos. Authentic Mexican Cuisine is served in the Hacienda de Oro Restaurant from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. For more information, call (322) 223-6182 or visit vbgardens.org.

Click HERE to learn more about Vallarta Botanical Gardens.