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Introduction to MBC's Palm Collection




MBC Palm Pages

Following a rigorous review by the APGA, Montgomery Botanical Center holds the National Palm Collection.

With nearly 3,000 species of palms in the world, the number of researchers studying this plant group is greater than those studying cycads. A primary Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC) goal is to support the international palm community – from the scientists and students conducting palm research to other experts, industries, and societies participating in the larger “world of palms.”

As early as 1932, Robert Montgomery was committed to developing an international palm collection on the property. Today, MBC staff continue to undertake scientifically-based international expeditions to collect population-based seed samples of palms throughout the world to plant at Montgomery Botanical. As in the past, palms continue to be the major collection at MBC. Vistas, paths, roads, lakes, and landscape beds are all designed using palms obtained from MBC’s international expeditions.

In 1992, the multidisciplinary design firm of Sasaki Associates, Inc. created a long-term Master Site Plan for MBC. The Plan defined long-term land use, access and circulation, and landscape structure. A major landscape project within the Plan was the creation, development, and planting of the Palm Walk, a 13-acre area containing a quarter-mile primary path, numerous secondary walking and golf-cart paths, and major and minor vistas. Ultimately, the Palm Walk will contain well over 7,000 palms when fully planted.

In 1996, the first planting of the Palm Walk went into the ground at the Walk’s entrance near Nell’s House. Annually, approximately 500 palms are planted within the boundaries of the Walk.

Zombia antillarum with fruit growing at the entrance to Nell’s House was planted in the 1930s. MBC has some of the largest known plants of this species under cultivation.

During the first few planting years at MBC, an average of 750 palms were planted annually throughout the property. Each of those plants were grown from seeds that were wild-collected, fully-documented, and of scientific and educational value. By December 31, 1999, MBC had over 7,000 seeds and plants in our palm nursery and grounds collections. Within the palm grounds collection, during that same time, MBC had over 4,000 plants, representing 1,596 accessions and over 300 species. The major framework of palms for the Palm Walk was completed in 2002.


Palm curator, Laurie Danielson (left), and nursery curator, Vickie Murphy, planting a vining rattan palm at the base of an oak tree.

Rattan palms are environmentally threatened, unloved, spiny, climbing palms that are horticultural nightmares to manage in a garden. Everyone loves the beautiful rattan furniture made from its canes, but no one cares to grow these vines. Although this group of palms contains over 500 species, rattan collections at botanical gardens throughout the world are almost nonexistent. MBC, with the help of a generous contribution from the South Florida Chapter of the International Palm Society, will plant 70 specimens of rattan palms.

Scientists from throughout the world are encouraging the development of Montgomery Botanical Center’s rattan collection. They are eagerly waiting to undertake studies on the collection once it is developed. Many questions still remain about a rattan’s life history, regenerative abilities, and morphology. Answers to those questions will ultimately help in developing sustainable management guidelines for this important group of plants.

Growing on the edge of MBC’s Nypa Lake are
Nypa fruticans, the mangrove palm.

Male inflorescences of Nypa fruticans.
MBC is one of only a few gardens in North America that
is able to grow and produce viable seeds of the unique
Nypa fruticans.


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