May 9, 2013
Zamia Update: an Old Cycad Mystery and a New Discovery
Biologists from Montgomery recently worked with an international team to clarify the taxonomy of Central American cycads. The new study brings to light a complicated botanical history. Around 1846, Anders Sandøe Ørsted collected a single leaf specimen with very little information, simply noting it as from “the San Juan River, Nicaragua.” That single specimen was the basis for Zamia acuminata, described by William Thiselton-Dyer in 1884. Exploration over the next 160 years found no additional specimens in Nicaragua or adjacent Costa Rica, making this a very mysterious plant!
Recent fieldwork led by Michael Calonje, along with careful review of specimens and literature convinced Michael to explore the idea that perhaps Ørsted's specimen may have been collected in Costa Rica in route to the San Juan River, and not at the San Juan River itself. One source of the confusion is the ambiguity in Ørsted’s brief specimen annotation in Latin, which could be interpreted as meaning either “at” the river or “to” the river.
By painstakingly reconstructing, mapping and traveling Ørsted’s 1846 route, from his 1863 travelogue, and studying new specimens collected in Costa Rica, Michael and his colleagues determined that Ørsted’s specimen exactly matched recent collections from the western Sierra de Talamanca, nearly 100 km south of the Rio San Juan, but within close range to Ørsted’s route to the San Juan River in Nicaragua.
This new work also identifies and describes a new species from Panama, Zamia nana. For many years, Zamia nana was confused with Zamia acuminata due to its similar leaflet shape. However, the new species is a much smaller plant than Zamia acuminata and is restricted to a small crater of an extinct Volcano in Coclé Province, Panama.
Michael states: “Zamia nana has been well-known in cultivation and botanical garden collections for decades under the misapplied name Zamia acuminata, whereas the true Zamia acuminata from Costa Rica has remained poorly known prior to this multi-institutional collaborative study. This case illustrates the importance of making complete herbarium specimen collections with detailed location and descriptive information to avoid future taxonomic ambiguity."
The study, authored by Anders Lindstrom, Michael Calonje, Dennis Stevenson, Chad Husby, and Alberto Taylor can be seen in the latest issue of Phytotaxa, volume 98, issue 2.
May 9, 2013
Palm Conservation Meeting in the Dominican Republic
On May 9, a symposium entitled "Palms of Hispaniola" was held at the Jardín Botánico Nacional Dr. Rafael Ma. Moscoso (JBSD) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. This symposium was part of a project, sponsored by a grant from the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, to study and conserve the critically endangered Haitian endemic palm Pseudophoenix lediniana. Montgomery is one of the collaborating gardens in this project.
During the symposium, Chad Husby presented a talk entitled, "The conservation and research program at Montgomery Botanical Center," focusing on MBC's palm work. Other key participants in the program included Dr. Javier Francisco-Ortega (Fairchild and FIU), Ricardo Garcia (director of JBSD), William Cinea (director of the Cayes Botanical Garden, Haiti), Alberto Veloz (JBSD), Rosa Rodriguez (FIU graduate student working with Pseudophoenix), and Francisco Jiménez (JBSD).
The program was well received by the attendees who asked many questions during the final roundtable discussion.
May 4, 2013
Congratulations to Xavier and Michael
Please join us in congratulating Xavier Gratacos and Michael Tsairis on their graduation from Miami Dade College. Michael Tsairis is currently our Conservation Horticulture Fellow and Xavier Gratacos was a former Conservation Horticulture Fellow, and is now Assistant Curator at Montgomery Botanical Center.
Mr. Tsairis now holds an Associate in Arts in Landscape Architecture with a Horticulture Specialist Certificate. He is now pursuing a B.S. in Botany and Business. Mr. Gratacos received his Associate in Science in Landscape and Horticulture Technology. Congratulations to our newest colleagues in the field of horticulture!
April 22, 2013
Montgomery Research Featured on the Cover of HortTechnology:
Coffee Does Not Control Cycad Aulacaspis Scale
The April 2013 issue of HortTechnology features new research by Tracy Magellan, Chad Husby, Stella Cuestas, and M. Patrick Griffith which found that spent coffee grounds do not control Cycad Aulacaspis Scale (Asian Cycad Scale, CAS).
This scale insect, Aulacaspis yasumatsui, is a very destructive pest of cycads. CAS has not only been responsible for killing many of the ornamental Cycas plantings in South Florida, but also threatens Guam’s native cycad species with extinction. Controlling CAS is therefore a high priority for conservation horticulture.
Recent years saw growing enthusiasm for controlling CAS with spent coffee grounds, shown by online discussions and popular articles. The Montgomery Team made initial trials using donated coffee grounds, but soon realized that a formalized experiment – using isolated variables, controls, measurements and statistics – would allow insight into how effective the treatment actually performed.
Two sets of rigorous experiments were conducted to evaluate how coffee treatments affect scale infestations. The results show that coffee grounds have no significant effect on CAS. While used grounds may function as a soil conditioner or mulch, they are not effective as a scale control method. Quoting from the paper:
“Despite recent enthusiasm for this recycled resource, spent coffee grounds do not appear to protect cycads from CAS.”
“I began this study to quantify how effectively coffee grounds cleared cycads of CAS. As disappointed as I was to find out that the coffee treatments did not work, it was important to get the information to the public. We learned a few things in this paper: coffee grounds do not affect cycad mortality, so mulching plants with your grounds will not do your plants harm and it still keeps coffee grounds out of landfills; orange and neem oil do cause plant mortality and therefore should not be used on cycads; and coffee grounds did significantly acidify the pH of the soil by the end of the experiment.”
Montgomery thanks John DeMott of Redland Nursery for providing experimental plants and Starbucks Coffee for providing a great volume of spent coffee grounds over the course of the study.
April 17, 2013
New Paper: Cycad Conservation in The Bahamas:
Genetics, ex situ collections, and demographic assessment.
Michael Calonje, Montgomery cycad biologist, and his colleagues — David Knowles and Lindy Knowles from the Bahamas National Trust, Javier Francisco-Ortega at FIU and FTBG, Alan Meerow and Kyoko Nakamura from the USDA, and Patrick Griffith — just published a landmark paper on the conservation biology and population genetics of Zamia in The Bahamas.
The paper focused on Zamia lucayana, which is only known from a narrow area of coastal habitat on Long Island, but also surveyed the two other Bahamian species, Z. integrifolia and Z. angustifolia. Zamia integrifolia occurs on several Bahamian islands. Perhaps the most urgent survey finding was that Bahamian Z. angustifolia is reduced to just 150 adult plants on Eleuthera.
Conservation survey found less than 1,000 adult Z. lucayana plants, which are threatened by development. Germplasm for ex situ conservation was distributed to the Bahamas National Trust and leading cycad collections in the US, China, and Mexico.
The population genetics of Z. lucayana were investigated in detail through DNA microsatellite markers. Results indicate that the separate populations of Z. lucayana were historically connected through interbreeding, but are experiencing genetic drift due to recent isolation. Michael states:
"We found the three main Zamia lucayana populations had enough genetic similarity to each other to be considered a single population for conservation purposes. The populations were healthy and reproductively active, but several real estate subdivisions surrounded the habitat. We hope that future residential development within the vicinity will take place without directly impacting the small coastal dune population of these endangered plants."
The paper represents the first in-depth study of conservation genetics of a Critically Endangered endemic plant in the Bahamas archipelago and of the few studies focusing on plants from the Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot. Javier, the study’s leader, states:
"This study demonstrates the synergy that can develop for Caribbean plant conservation when you have a team with extraordinary molecular and field skills. I am not aware of any other published study for Caribbean endemic plants that has such a complete output pertinent to basic population genetic questions, conservation management recommendations, and exhaustive field work."
The paper appears in the latest issue of Oryx, the International Journal of Conservation, the leading journal for applied conservation worldwide. This work was generously supported by a grant from the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, an award from the National Science Foundation, a Christiane Tyson Research Fellowship, and funds from the participating organizations.
March 16, 2013
Loyd G. Kelly Conservation Nursery Dedication
On March 16, 2013, Montgomery Botanical Center dedicated its newly upgraded nursery complex for Loyd Kelly, long time Member and Board Member.
On behalf of Montgomery, Patrick Griffith, MBC Executive Director, welcomed the large group of supporters, friends and family, who turned out to honor Loyd for his decades of service, support and commitment. The new and upgraded plant propagation complex is vital to Montgomery. Each plant here begins its life in the nursery. The upgrade to the 1932 facilities will better meet plant requirements and provide more space. The project was carefully planned, designed, sited and built to allow more numerous and diverse palms, cycads and conifers. This fundamental work – growing seedlings – is the first step in conserving imperiled plants.
Chad Husby, MBC Collections Manager, spoke to highlight how the new facility enables MBC to do so much more. Modern advances in greenhouse design and plant propagation technology will give the young plants the best care available.
Walter Haynes, MBC Treasurer, spoke about the great legacy Loyd created for Montgomery. Loyd’s tenure as President (1990-1996) following Nell Montgomery’s death laid the foundation for our current successes. Loyd’s talent for leadership and organization renewed the team and set clear vision and direction. Loyd organized the restoration of facilities and collections following Hurricane Andrew, and hired MBC’s first Executive Director and Biologists. After 20 years of service the Board reluctantly accepted his retirement, and elected Loyd as Director Emeritus. Walter spoke:
“Do we miss you Loyd? Well––Yes and no. Yes, we miss you––because every day we miss your wise counsel. No, we do not miss you––because every day as we look around, we see what you made possible to achieve here. We will never forget what you have done here.”
Patrick then recognized the supporters of the Loyd G. Kelly Conservation Nursery – Kelly Foundation, The Batchelor Foundation, National Science Foundation, Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust, Helen C. Frick Foundation, and Boy Scout Troop 457 – their generous support made this project possible!
Nick Kelly, MBC President, also thanked everyone for their generosity, support and colleagueship. To demonstrate the importance of the new facility, Nick held up several small seeds, and had the audience compare them to the large palms nearby.
“Everyone can appreciate the beauty of a giant palm, but getting from a seed to a big tree takes a lot of effort and care. And that’s what this facility is all about.”
March 13, 2013
Montgomery Botanical Center Commended by Miami School Board
Montgomery was recently recognized by the School Board of Miami-Dade County. A proclamation sponsored by Ms. Raquel Regalado, the School Board Member whose district includes MBC, listed the numerous ways MBC helps advance education, and commends Montgomery for its “dedication to preserving the environment, as well as for advancing research, conservation and education through scientific plant collections.” The proclamation was unanimously put forward by the School Board on March 13, 2013.
Dr. Chad Husby, Collections Manager, gratefully accepted the proclamation on behalf of Montgomery. Chad was given the opportunity to address the School Board and the public attendees, speaking about the ways MBC plants have been used in education, and how that serves the MBC mission. Chad stated, “Montgomery Botanical Center has a long history of introducing students in Miami-Dade County to the wonders of the plant world and engaging them in the exciting work of a botanic garden focused on science and conservation."
Montgomery Botanical Center continues to find many ways that research plants can help advance education. For more information, see the education webpage.
Spring/Summer 2013 Montgomery Botanical News is Now Online!
This new issue has articles about a palms in the Dominican Republic and Texas, and cycads in Colombia. It also highlights the Plant Exploration exhibit at the Coral Gables Museum, which introduced Montgomery Botanical Center to many members of our local community.
Please see page 11 and the back cover for information on our newly restored original 1932 greenhouse. Make sure not to miss the article, "An Anatomist's Garden," which is about all the great new work is being done by visiting scientists this year.
Montgomery Botanical Center publishes two newsletters a year to keep our supporters and collaborators up to date and informed.
To read more about how Montgomery Botanical Center meets our mission of "Advancing Research, Conservation, and Education through Scientific Plant Collections" please see our newsletters online.
March 9 - March 10, 2013
South Florida Palm Society 2013 Spring Palm Show & Sale
Montgomery in March
January 26, 2013
NSF Cycad Biology Teachers Workshop
On January 26th, New York Botanical Garden, Florida International University, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and Montgomery Botanical Center offered a Cycad Biology Course to teachers from Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The course was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and taught by Dennis Stevenson (NYBG), Michael Calonje (MBC), Javier Francisco-Ortega (FIU-Fairchild), and Patrick Griffith (MBC).
Nine school teachers and Nicolas Espinosa, National Science Foundation Intern from FIU, attended the course. NYBG, FIU, FTBG, and MBC have been working together to research the genetics of Zamia in the Caribbean. Educational outreach is an important component of this project and the organizations involved are working to make the new information from this project available to the community.
The workshop included classroom lectures and laboratory demonstrations in the Nixon Smiley Meeting Room along with using the living collections of MBC.
Griffith was thrilled with the workshop: “This is an awesome group of teachers — I only wish I could have learned about cycads when I was in grade school! Linking our current science with local educators is a great way to reach the next generation of botanists.”
January 17-18, 2013
APGA Board Visits Montgomery
The Board of Directors of the American Public Garden Association (APGA) visited Montgomery Botanical Center for a dinner and tour on January 17th and 18th.
They held their Board meeting in Miami and used the opportunity to visit the
southern Florida member gardens. Montgomery Botanical Center is a member of
the American Public Garden Association and holds the association’s national
palm and cycad collections.
January 14, 2013
The Network for Neotropical Biogeography Meets at Montgomery
Montgomery hosted the 2nd meeting of the Network for Neotropical
Biogeography (NNTBG) in January. The meeting brought together over 60
experts from around the world who work with tropical plants and other
organisms in the New World.
The NNTBG works to promote coordination and interaction among scientists
working in the tropics. Bring together representatives from as many
groups as possible working on neotropical
biogeography and evolution
regardless of methodology, data source, spatial/temporal scale, or
organismal group studied. Talks came from a variety of fields such as
molecular phylogenetics, paleontology and ecology.
January 4 - February 24, 2013
Montgomery Botanical Center Plant Exploration Exhibit at the Coral Gables Museum
Montgomery Botanical Center has grown with Coral Gables, from a unique, out-of-the-way plant collection in 1932, to a thriving center for botany and horticulture, 80 years later. Coral Gables Museum will share the story of plant exploration by this nationally recognized living treasure. This exhibit is generously sponsored by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.