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2006 MBC News Archive



Early-morning moonset at Montgomery Botanical Center

    December 2006

Montgomery Botanical Center Palm Biologist
Authors Two New Butia Species

B. marmoriiDr. Larry Noblick, Montgomery Botanical Center's palm biologist, has described, for the first time, two rarely collected Butia species -- B. exospadix and B. marmorii.Butia exospadix and B. marmorii (at center of photo) imitate grass and were discovered in the natural grasslands on the border of Paraguay and Brazil. As author of these species, Dr. Noblick brings to light species that might not even be recognized as palms.

Butia exospadix and B. marmorii also show distinctive similarities to Syagrus leptospatha. Therefore, Dr. Noblick has transferred S. leptospatha to Butia; S. leptospatha is now correctly identified as B. leptospatha. Dr. Noblick's studies demonstrate, conclusively, the relationship among these three Butia species. His findings were published in the December 2006 edition of Palms, the Journal of the International Palm Society.

Dr. Noblick has been a palm biologist at Montgomery Botanical Center since 1994. In addition to Paraguay and Brazil, he has also collected in Argentina, Indonesia, Madagascar, New Caledonia, and Venezuela. Dr. Noblick's research has focused primarily on the coconut-related palms, especially Syagrus and Butia.

The Butia marmorii seeds collected by Dr. Noblick have germinated and the young seedlings are currently being propagated in Montgomery Botanical Center's nursery.

ecember 12, 2006

Montgomery Fellow, Dr. Mónica Moraes Ramírez,
Begins Germination Experiment at Montgomery Botanical Center

Dr. Monica MoraesDr. Mónica Moraes R., of the Herbario Nacional de Bolivia at the Institute of Ecology, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia, is using Montgomery Botanical Center's greenhouses for a series of germination experiments on select Bolivian palm species, with an emphasis on Parajubaea. It has been observed that certain species of adult palms are thriving in the wild in Bolivia. However, very few young palms have been observed in the understory. Determining their early life history is essential for the long term survival of the species.

On December 8, 2006, Dr. Moraes presented a public lecture in Montgomery Botanical Center's Nixon Smiley Meeting Room: Palms of Bolivia in a Neotropical Context.

The Montgomery Botanical Fellows Program encourages scientific and educational study of MBC's palm and cycad collections, linking distinguished scientists and their work with other scientists, educators, our next generation of scientists -- the students, and the community. Generous funding from the Kelly Foundation supports The Montgomery Botanical Fellows Program.

     December 4, 2006

Dr. Ken Cameron Presents DNA Barcode Research for Vanilla Orchid

Dr. Ken Cameron, director of The New York Botanical Garden's Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics Studies and a leading orchid researcher, visited Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC) with his colleagues, Dr. Chengxin Fu and Dr. Xiaodong Zheng, from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China.

On December 1, Dr. Cameron presented his DNA research on Vanilla planifolia -- the orchid species with the greatest economic value. In this public lecture -- Vanilla Orchid Identification: A Test Case for Plant DNA Bardcoding -- held in Montgomery Botanical Center's Nixon Smiley Meeting Room, Dr. Cameron traced the extensive DNA analysis performed to confirm Vanilla planifolia's place in the "family tree" of orchids.

DNA is being studied to help determine the relationships and differences among plant species. Using segments of plant DNA as DNA barcodes reduces ambiguity and works to identify plant tissue for all stages of the plant's life.

Montgomery Botanical Center educates the community through lectures, seminars, and workshops. MBC is open by appointment to students, educators, scientists, historians, botanical groups, and all others interested in scientific plant collections.

     November 29, 2006

Dr. Andrew Vovides Presents Public Lectures in
Nixon Smiley Meeting Room

Dr. Andrew Vovides of the Instituto de Ecologia, A.C., Xalapa, México -- and México's leading cycad researcher -- visited Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC) to advance the collaborative cycad research in progress between the two institutions.

While at MBC, Dr. Vovides presented two public lectures in Montgomery Botanical Center's Nixon Smiley Meeting Room. The focus of Dr. Vovides' lecture on November 27, 2006, was the phylogeny of Dioon. Dr. Vovides used Montgomery Botanical's Dioon collections in this study.        

On November 28, 2006, Dr. Vovides spoke about Education in Botanic Gardens: Sustainable Management of Mexican Cycads in Rural Nurseries. The Jardín Botánico Francisco Javier Clavijero started this program in response to the illegal removal of cycads from the wild and the destruction of cycad habitat in México. Through this initiative, local farmers participate in cycad reforestation and reintroduction projects. As part of the program, the farmers receive hands-on horticultural training about growing cycads from seed. This cycad conservation through propagation program has achieved some successes -- the farmers, who have seen its economic value, have accepted it, and other communities are following suit.

Dr. Vovides acknowledged the importance of botanical collections, highlighting the accomplishments of botanic gardens in both south Florida and México. Montgomery Botanical Center's mission is to advance research, conservation, and education through its scientific plant collections. Montgomery Botanical Center educates the community about its scientific and conservation work through lectures, seminars, and workshops focusing on its palm and cycad collections. MBC is open by appointment to students, educators, scientists, historians, botanical groups, and all others interested in scientific plant collections.

October 30, 2006

Dr. Dennis Stevenson and Dr. Damon Little
Study Montgomery Botanical Center's Cycad Collections

Dr. Dennis Stevenson and Dr. Damon Little are working on a major project to illuminate the pattern of relationships among cycads and their close relatives through DNA studies. Dr. Dennis Stevenson, Rupert Barnaby curator and vice president for laboratory research at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), is a leading expert on cycads; Dr. Damon Little, research associate at the Institute of Systematic Botany at NYBG, is an expert on the evolution and relationships of conifers. Cycads are an early conifer lineage and the oldest group of seed plants that persist to the present era.

As a leading institution for cycads, Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC) made important contributions to this project through its live scientific collections. Dr. Stevenson and Dr. Little spent a week at MBC gathering material for DNA analysis, making voucher specimens, and taking advantage of MBC's extensive documentation. MBC's curatorial work also benefited from Dr. Stevenson's review of the collections, as he redetermined a number of accessions.

On October 27th, Dr. Stevenson presented a public lecture in MBC's Nixon Smiley Meeting Room -- Cycads: From Field Biology to Neurobiology. This gave the south Florida community an opportunity to learn of the cutting-edge research in this fascinating plant group.

Montgomery Botanical Center's core mission is to advance research, conservation, and education through scientific plant collections, and this collaboration with the New York Botanical Garden directly addresses those core objectives.

September 3, 2006

Montgomery Fellow, Dr. John Dowe, Presents
Two Public Lectures in Nixon Smiley Meeting Room

Montgomery Botanical Research Fellow, Dr. John Dowe of the Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater Research, made significant progress in researching palm hurricane and cyclone damage during his visit to Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC). Dr. Dowe examined MBC's living collection of Australian palms, assessing the damage from south Florida's 2005 hurricanes. Relevant databases were prepared and adapted to allow comparative examination across years and different strength hurricanes.

In public lectures held in MBC's Nixon Smiley Meeting Room, Dr. Dowe covered the following:

  • On August 24, 2006, he presented The Initial Impact of Cyclone Larry on Populations of the Alexandra Palm (Archontophoenix alexandrae) in North Queensland, Australia. Category 5 tropical cyclone Larry crossed the Queensland coastline on March 20, 2006, causing massive destruction. It is estimated that falling and flying debris inflicted the most damage to A. alexandrae A. alexandrae are most likely to survive the initial impact of high wind events. populations rather than direct wind-force impact; the smallest and largest plants in populations of
  • On September 1, 2006, Dr. Dowe presented The Macarthur Palm, Ptychosperma macarthurii: A Case Study of Its Discovery, Taxonomy, and Introduction to Horticulture. Ptychosperma macarthurii is one of the world's most popular ornamental palms, adaptable to a broad range of climatic and cultural conditions.

While at Montgomery Botanical Center, MBC executive director Dr. Patrick Griffith, MBC palm biologist Dr. Larry Noblick, and Dr. Dowe continued their collaboration on MBC's study outlining variation in cyclone tolerance in palms. Broadening the Montgomery Fellows program, Dr. Dowe also met with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden staff to collect herbarium materials for DNA examination and access Fairchild's herbarium for anatomical research. 

The Montgomery Botanical Fellows Program encourages scientific and educational study of MBC's palm and cycad collections, linking distinguished scientists and their work with other scientists, educators, our next generation of scientists -- the students, and the community. The Montgomery Botanical Fellows Program is supported by generous funding from the Kelly Foundation.

August 11, 2006

Cristina Lopez-Gallego Presents Zamia Research

MBC Research Associate Cristina Lopez-Gallego, Doctoral Candidate at the University of New Orleans, presented her research on Zamia with a seminar given at the Nixon Smiley Meeting Room at 2:30 PM on Friday, August 11th. Cristina investigates genetic and adaptive divergence in populations of Zamia fairchildiana in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. As part of these studies, Cristina has ongoing adaptation experiments underway in MBC's greenhouse.

Cristina's excellent seminar highlighted the vital importance of live research collections to complement and augment essential field and laboratory based investigations. The MBC team was especially happy to receive Cristina's grateful acknowledgement.

August 8, 2006

MBC's Accomplishments Presented at Two National Meetings

Dr. Patrick Griffith, Montgomery Botanical Center's executive director, represented MBC at two national meetings this summer -- The American Public Gardens Association (APGA) conference, and the Botany 2006 conference.

The APGA selected MBC's proposed symposium, titled "Cultivating Discoveries: Integrating Collections and Research" for inclusion in its 2006 conference held in San Francisco. Patrick moderated and spoke at this symposium, which also included lectures by Dr. Scott Zona of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and Michael Dosmann of Cornell University. These lectures generated a very productive discussion about the future roles and uses of collections at botanic gardens.

At Botany 2006, held at Chico State University, Patrick presented Montgomery Botanical Center's research on how hurricanes affect various species of palms differently. The abstract can be viewed here.

The uniting theme of these presentations is the importance of scientifically-documented live plant collections in advancing botanical knowledge. With its commitment to long-term stewardship of plant collections and data, Montgomery Botanical Center is a vital resource for advancing knowledge in tropical botany.

June 15, 2006

MBC Hosts Gifford Arboretum Group

Montgomery Botanical Center hosted the leadership and supporters of the University of Miami's Gifford Arboretum on June 15th. The Gifford Arboretum is conducting a master planning process involving landscape architecture and collections planning. The Gifford Arboretum group visited MBC to learn about our plant mapping and survey processes and our collections. The Gifford Arboretum group also discussed its findings regarding the use of its collections for educational purposes.

The goals, objectives, and missions of Montgomery Botanical Center and the Gifford Arboretum are closely aligned, and the collections and settings are very complementary. Therefore, this collaboration greatly enhances each's ability to advance botany in the local community. MBC welcomes the opportunity to work with this important university plant collection to advance botanical education and research.

June 6, 2006

Logan Barton, Montgomery Intern

Montgomery Botanical Center welcomes Logan Barton, a horticulture student from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Logan is MBC's first intern in the inaugural year of the Montgomery Internship Program. He brings experience working with subtropical horticulture at Texas A&M's Horticultural Gardens, and is interested in expanding his education in tropical and subtropical horticulture.

Montgomery Botanical Center is committed to education in botany and horticulture. By supporting this internship program, MBC participates in training young horticulturists, and also benefits from the latest techniques being developed at colleges like Texas A&M.

June 5, 2006

The Kampong Hosts International Conference

The Kampong hosted the 5th International Tropical Flowering Tree Color Conference this past weekend, which included a number of distinguighed speakers. The keynote speaker, Dr. Harry Lorenzi of Brazil, is a longtime collaborator in the Palm biogeographic work of Dr. Larry Noblick. As part of the conference, MBC hosted a delegation of speakers and partcipants from Singapore, Australia, Brazil, and South Florida for a survey of collections on June 5th.

MBC was very happy to participate in this very successful and exciting conference, and we offer our congratulations to The Kampong and the Tropical Flowering Tree Society for organizing this wonderful event.

January 16, 2006

Cristina Lopez-Gallego Named First MBC Research Associate

Cristina Lopez-Gallego, a cycad researcher from Colombia, was recently acknowledged for her valuable contribution to the Montgomery Botanical Center mission by being inducted as MBCs first research associate.

Cristina is presently a doctoral candidate at the University of New Orleans, where she is investigating potential genetic divergence between Zamia fairchildiana populations growing in primary rainforest and disturbed habitats in the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica.

Cristina recently returned from a two-month MBC-sponsored collecting and research expedition with plant material for her continuing investigations. While at MBC earlier this month, she initiated a seed germination experiment in MBCs greenhouse (see photo). Once the experiment is completed, this wild-collected material will be accessioned into the MBC collection, at which time it will become an invaluable resource due to the enormous amount of quality data that will accompany the plants.

January 14, 2006

FIU Graduate Geology Site Visit

Dr. Grenville Draper, Professor of Geology at Florida International University, brought his departments graduate students to learn some local geology. In addition to sinkholes and other karstic features (see photo), The Silver Bluff Escarpment, an exposed limestone ridge, is well exposed and accessible on the MBC property. This escarpment (part of the Miami Formation) is composed of oolitic limestone and shows evidence of past sea level changes.

Although committed to advancing research, conservation, and education in tropical botany, Montgomery Botanical Center is always willing to support the geological sciences. In truth, botany and geology are quite related, and the knowledge of our landsite obtained by this visit will inform future plantings.

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