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Current Montgomery Botanical News




View of Coconut Lake before thunderstorm.

April 15, 2014

Cover Story Featuring Montgomery

The current issue of Florida Turf Digest features MBC on the cover. The article, Saltwater Intrusion in the Biscayne Aquifer: a case study at the Montgomery Botanical Center, discusses the effects of regional water management history with an in-depth review of how this has been observed onsite.

The article by Lee Anderson, MBC Superintendent, highlights the challenges of managing freshwater irrigation for a garden, with diverse plant collections, supplied by the Biscayne Aquifer, which also supplies the thriving agriculture and metropolitan region of South Florida. The history of MBC wells and plantings in this context can illustrate how water resources can change over time, and how a botanic garden must adapt to these changes.

Florida Turf Digest is published by the Florida Turf Management Association, which is dedicated to environmentally-responsible, professional, and scientifically-based management practices for turfgrass.

April 4, 2014

Montgomery’s work featured at Botanic Garden Science Congress

Montgomery Botanical Center’s work was featured at the 3rd Science in Botanic Gardens Congress (3SBGC). Patrick Griffith, Executive Director, was invited to present MBC’s work about the genetics of conservation collections.

Common themes on taxonomy, molecular biology and conservation science brought together scientists from many botanic gardens in Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Morocco, Poland, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and The United States. The conference was sponsored by UNESCO, BGCI, and the Jardín Botánico Canario Viera y Clavijo, and convened in the historic Gabinete Literario in downtown Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Patrick’s talk, “Biology informs strategy: conservation genetics of botanic garden collections,” highlighted MBC’s studies on ex situ plant conservation, using model systems from the palm and cycad collections, and how these integrate with fieldwork (see March 1, 2014 article below) and in situ conservation activities. These projects have been generously funded by the IMLS, the IPS, SOS-Save Our Species, and MBZ.

April 3, 2014

Montgomery Co-Sponsors the 26th Annual Gifford Arboretum Lecture at the University of Miami

Dr. P. Barry Tomlinson, Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and Research Fellow at Montgomery Botanical Center gave the 26th Annual Gifford Arboretum Lecture at the University of Miami titled, "Longevity in Plant Cells - Are Palms the Longest-lived Trees?"

Dr. Barry Tomlinson has conducted ground breaking research on how palm cells significantly differ from those of conifers and hardwoods. Dr. Tomlinson’s article on this topic can be found in the American Journal of Botany.

This lecture, co-sponsored by the Gifford Arboretum at the University of Miami and Montgomery Botanical Center, was well attended leaving standing room only. Colleagues from Florida International University, the Kampong, and other local gardens, schools, organizations, and individuals attended the informative lecture. A video showing cellular motion in the stem of Rhapis was thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd.

The Gifford Arboretum Lecture is part of the CETroB lecture series and was brought to you with the support of the City of Coral Gables and the Kelly Foundation.

March 1, 2014

Cycad Expedition in Southern Belize

A major expedition to conserve a remote cycad! Montgomery Executive Director Patrick Griffith and Cycad Biologist Michael Calonje recently led a collaborative team – 18 people, 3 horses and 3 dogs – to distant caves in the Maya Mountains.

In addition to Montgomery, the team included botany, horticulture and wildlife experts from Belize Botanic Gardens, Teakettle Enterprises, and the Ya’axche Conservation Trust, in addition to local and national support personnel.

The species studied here – The Sinkhole Cycad, Zamia decumbens – has been of great recent interest. Michael and co-authors described this species only in 2009. Based on its biological and geographic circumstances, this cycad has the potential to inform conservation methods for other plants. Montgomery is developing a new model for botanic garden conservation collections based on this species.

The same geographic circumstances that make this cycad ideal for research and conservation – remote caves in the mountain forest – prompted careful logistics and planning. The study sites are a full day’s walk beyond roads, and quite near the Guatemalan border. Three nights of distant bivouac with food, camp gear and botanical tools – for such a large group – required a pack train of three horses. In addition, the increased presence of xateros (palm poachers) in the area made security planning necessary.

These major efforts were absolutely worth it: Michael and Patrick were delighted to learn of and document a third major population of this cycad in yet another remote site! The team took extensive notes, photographs, DNA samples and seeds for research and conservation. The new findings and collections will help conserve this rare cycad, as well as inform conservation for other plants species.

The field expedition was generously supported by grants from SOS Save Our Species, and the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, in addition to the staff time provided by the participating organizations. duPlooy’s Jungle Lodge also very generously provided in-kind support of food and lodging for the project. We also are very grateful to the Belize Forest Department for permission to study and collect these plants.

February 20, 2014

Montgomery Palm Expedition in Southern Brazil

New discoveries, new confirmations and new collections – Larry Noblick, MBC Palm Biologist, has just returned from southern Brazil, where he has spent the last 7 weeks studying a group of fascinating “stemless” palms.

New findings have confirmed that the genus Syagrus is the closest living relative of the Coconut, one of the world’s most useful plants. In addition to the familiar Queen Palm, Syagrus includes many palm species which are quite diminutive and appear to grow as a clump of leaves with an underground, hidden stem. These species grow in savanna and rocky grassland habitats and can often be mistaken for grasses, due to their hidden stems and long thin leaflets. But their relationship to coconuts is often revealed by the fruit and seed of these little-known palms.

While afield, Larry was hosted by the Instituto Plantarum, Jardim Botanico Plantarum and Harri Lorenzi, his longtime collaborator and coauthor. The Jardim Botanico Plantarum’s lab facilities allowed Larry to make accurate identifications through microscopic examination.

The expedition covered a lot of ground – over 9,000 miles in 5 states – in search of these hidden gems. Through this intensive fieldwork, Larry recorded new locations for known species, and also discovered some new species. Seeds and herbarium specimens of these palms are now back at Montgomery and under further study.

The expedition was very generously supported by the Paul Drummond Fund for Palm Conservation.

February 18, 2014

Montgomery Research at Fossil Conference

New findings link ancient fossils to modern plants! Dr. Boglarka Erdei, Research Fellow at Montgomery and Chief Museologist at the Hungarian Natural History Museum, discussed her findings at the 10th Conference of the North American Paleontological Convention in Gainesville this week.

Dr. Erdei’s work, done in close collaboration with Michael Calonje, MBC Cycad Biologist, and Nicolas Espinosa, an NSF-supported undergraduate intern (FIU), compared an Eocene cycad fossil from Panama with the living plant collections at Montgomery, in order to determine its nearest modern relatives. Careful microscopic examination of the leaf surface, using digital measurements and statistical analysis, indicates that the fossil is a Zamia, with a close affinity to Zamia from the Caribbean.

This research has found shows a new way that the modern living cycads at Montgomery can help advance the understanding of ancient plants!

February 14, 2014

Lecture by Natalie Prior on Cycad Pollination Drops

Please join us for a special seminar at Montgomery Botanical Center.

Title: "Proteomics of cycad pollination drops"

Speaker: Natalie Prior, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Date & time: Friday, February 14, at 2:00 PM. (Reception with refreshments at 2:00 PM, talk from 2:30-3:15 PM.)

Location: Nixon Smiley Meeting Room, Montgomery Botanical Center, 11901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, FL 33156

About the presentation: In non-flowering seed plants, the gymnosperms, there are no flowers, and pollen enters ovules directly. In cycads, a fluid is secreted from the ovule (the pollination drop) that captures and transports pollen into the ovule. Biochemical analyses have shown that pollination drops typically contain a mixture of mineral and organic components, suggesting drops may play a more dynamic role in pollen-ovule interactions. I will discuss the results of proteomic analyses on the pollination drops of three cycad species collected at the Montgomery Botanical Center (Zamia furfuracea, Ceratozamia hildae, Cycas rumphii).

Brought to you with the support of the City of Coral Gables.

February 4, 2014

New Paper on Cycad Anatomy

The oldest cycads still show features of ancient plants – this is one idea put forward in the latest paper from the Montgomery Team. The study, appearing in the latest issue of International Journal of Plant Sciences, carefully examined the leaflet anatomy of Cycas, the oldest surviving lineage of cycads, and compared the anatomy to relationships and geography of these living treasures.

The study is important due to the new discovery of how recently living cycad species evolved (see the August 8, 2013 and September 2013 News Items here). Although the genus Cycas is very old, originating around 200 million years ago – the middle of the Age of Dinosaurs – living Cycas species are only from the last 12 million years. Barry Tomlinson, working with Tracy Magellan and Patrick Griffith, determined that the leaflet anatomy was based on a common but distinctive ground plan, but varied somewhat in this largest and oldest group of cycads.

The study was generously supported by the Kelly Botanical Research Fellows Program, which allowed Barry to work with the living collections at MBC. Barry states: “This work demonstrates the value of the Montgomery collections in basic comparative study, using simple and easily applied techniques.”

January 6, 2014

Living Plant Conservation Collections:
A Guide for Public Gardens

Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) has published a new guide, Building living plant collections for conservation. The guide features example cases from Montgomery’s work, including genetic evaluation of the Sinkhole Cycad.

This guide is designed to provide a general blueprint to help strategically develop conservation collections. Many endangered plants are considered exceptional species, which do not store well in seedbanks, and thus must rely on living collections for conservation. Quoting from the guide:

Your garden has the power to ensure extinction isn’t an option by strategically building and using your collection to support conservation of threatened species. In doing so, you contribute to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation and support global efforts to halt the continuing loss of plant diversity.

The guide is the result of a recently completed project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, involving MBC, BGCI, and USDA’s Chapman Field.

The guide can be downloaded free from BGCI’s website. For more information on this project and additional resources, please see Montgomery’s Collections Genetics page.

January, 2014

Service Learning in Colleges and Universities:
A new article in Public Garden

The latest issue of Public Garden magazine, the journal of the American Public Gardens Association (APGA), highlights college students in public gardens. Montgomery Botanical Center's Nursery Curator, Vickie Murphy, and Miami Dade College Service Learner, Evelyn Hoyos, made the cover!

In the article, written by Tracy Magellan, three different Service Learning programs are compared: 1) Miami Dade College/Montgomery Botanical Center, 2) The Sandhills Community College/Sandhills Horticultural Gardens, and 3) Humber College Institute of Technology/Humber Arboretum.

At Montgomery we appreciate the hard work and dedication of the Miami Dade students. They have been a reliable group of students with a great passion for learning.

We have had a combination of students deciding on their majors and students who have already chosen horticulture as their major of interest. Both groups of students have been interested in learning about our rare plants and the special requirements to care for them.

Service Learning programs are good for students and gardens!

January, 2014

Special issue of Botanical Review:
Genetics and Plant Conservation in Latin America

An exciting new issue of Botanical Review features work by Montgomery! The collection of papers here are the proceedings of a symposium on Genetics and Plant Conservation in Latin America, which was chaired by Angelica Cibrian Jaramillo, of Langebio, Mexico.

Among the in-depth reviews in this issue is a paper on the conservation value of botanic garden plant collections, led by Dr. Cibrian Jaramillo and Patrick Griffith.

Angelica was a featured speaker at MBC’s 50th anniversary gathering in 2009. Her discussion with Patrick Griffith and Javier Francisco-Ortega led to the original idea for this symposium. Quoting from the introduction to the issue:

Over the course of that event, discussion among ACJ, JFO, MPG, and DW Stevenson centered on organizing the symposium documented here. These discussions were informed by collaborative projects built in partnership with colleagues in Latin America and the Caribbean. Perhaps reflecting the garden setting where our discussion began, the last paper included here focuses on botanic garden plant collections, a critical and often overlooked component of plant conservation.

The issue features Microcycas calocoma on the cover, as this plant exemplifies both a species of conservation concern in Latin America, and a botanic garden collection of great conservation value.

January 1, 2014

New videos about Montgomery:
Collections, Research, and Education

Three new videos are now online at MontgomeryTV. Thanks to the dedicated work of James Clugston, Kelly Botanical Research Fellow, you can now see:

• A video highlighting the importance of plant collections at MBC,

• Some highlights of research using the collection, and

• a look at how the collection supports education.

Communicating the vital importance of these living collections was one of James’ goals in making these filmsPlease take a look!

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