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.
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!
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 films—Please take a look!