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2011 MBC News Archive

Royal Lake at Montgomery Botanical Center.
View across Royal Lake at Montgomery Botanical Center

December 1-7, 2011

9th International Conference on Cycad Biology:

Fairylake Botanical Garden, Shenzhen, China

The 9th International Conference on Cycad Biology was held in Shenzhen, China and organized by Fairylake Botanical Garden, the Cycad Society of China, the IUCN/SSC Cycad Specialist Group, the New York Botanical Garden and Montgomery Botanical Center, and co-organized by Shenzhen Urban Management Bureau, Department of National Reserves & Wildlife Conservation, the National Forestry Bureau, and the China Wild Plant Conservation Association during the week of Dec. 1-7, 2011.

The conference brought together over 100 delegates from 14 different countries, including 50 cycad experts from China.  Talks and posters were presented in eight main study areas: Genetics and Genomics, Conservation, Taxonomy and Phylogeny, Ecology, Horticulture, Toxicology, Economic Botany, and Information Management.  A total of 54 talks and 22 posters were presented for a total of 76 presentations!

The conference was held at the Shenzhen International Garden and Flower Expo Park, which is run off a solar power grid, making this a very green conference.

Montgomery Botanical Center was well represented at the gathering, with MBC staff authoring or co-authoring a variety of talks and posters -- from genetics to horticulture:

  • A phylogeny of Zamia, presented by Michael Calonje.

  • Thermogenesis of cycad cones, presented by Irene Terry.

  • Microcycas calocoma: conservation horticulture, presented by Patrick Griffith.

  • Conservation genetics of Caribbean Zamia, presented by Alan Meerow.

  • Structural evolution of cycads (Griffith).

  • Phenology of Zamia, presented by James Clugston.

  • Conservation action plan for Zamia lucayana, (Michael Calonje).

  • Evaluating media for growth of Zamia species, presented by Chad Husby.

  • Botanic gardens cycad collections, (Griffith).

  • Genetic variation of the Zamia pumila complex, (Meerow).

  • Cycad horticulture at MBC, presented by Stella Cuestas.

  • Assessing coffee grounds to control cycad scale, presented by Tracy Magellan.

  • Cycad sex ratios, presented by Claudia Calonje.  

Many of MBC's research colleagues also presented their work. A full list of presentations including full titles, abstracts, and authors can be found in the Special Issue of the Journal of Fairylake Botanical Garden. 2011. Vol. 10(3-4).

This conference allowed cycad biologists from around the world to present new scientific discoveries and discuss critical future directions.  Central to the conference was the IUCN Cycad Specialist Group, which met to update information on cycads on the Red List for 2011 with new data gained from recent research.

This conference was an immense success.  Being able to hear about three years of cycad research being conducted around the world at one conference was spectacular.  It is great to see the leaps and bounds being taken by cycad biologists internationally.

The MBC Team would like to thank the excellent people at Fairylake Botanical Garden for expertly hosting this very important event.

November 2011

Fall/Winter 2011 Montgomery Botanical News is Now Online!

This new issue has articles about collecting in The Bahamas, Florida, and Brazil.  It also highlights new infrastructure: the Marion and Tex Haynes Patio.

Montgomery Botanical Center had three undergraduate interns who did excellent work over the summer.  MBC also continued a tradition of excellent research outcomes.

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. 

November 8, 2011

Dr. John Dowe Lecture on the Flora of Australia at MBC

Where: Montgomery Botanical Center, Nixon Smiley Building, 11901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, FL 33156, United States

When: November 8, 2011 from 2:00-3:30pm

Dr. John Leslie Dowe, Adjunct Research Fellow at James Cook University, Townsville, Qld, Australia & Research Fellow at Montgomery Botanical Center, Coral Gables, Florida will be presenting a lecture on the Flora of Australia.

Volume 39 of the Flora of Australia was published in July 2011. The project proposes to provide a complete account of the Australian flora, published progressively as individual family treatments are completed. The first volume was published in 1981, and presently about half of the volumes have been completed. Volume 39 contains the treatment of the palms of mainland Australia as well as 16 other monocot families. The presentation will explain the history and background of the Flora of Australia project, and will introduce the Australian palms as well as two other important families that the author has an interest in, the Pandanaceae [Pandans] and the Araceae [Aroids]. The talk will focus on these three families as they occur in Australia, and outline the species and their relationships. Dr. Dowe's visit to Montgomery Botanical Center is sponsored by the Kelly Foundation, as part of the Kelly Fellows Program, and with the support of the City of Coral Gables.  

November 4, 2011 

Historic Landscapes Group visits Montgomery

A group of landscape architects and botanic garden professionals visited MBC as part of the Historic Landscapes Symposium, organized by the American Public Gardens Association. The group visited MBC at sunset after a tour of The Kampong.  

While at MBC, the group learned about the history of Colonel Robert and Nell Montomgery, the earliest days of the MBC plant collection, and how the current team at MBC carries the tradition forward with plant collecting work.  

The group was comprised of professionals from as far away as Connecticuit, Vermont, California, and Louisiana, highlighting the great diversity of landscapes served by the APGA.

The symposiusm was expertly organized by Ian Simpkins of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. One of the highlights of the tour was Microcycas calocoma, a plant collection with an interesting shared history involving both Montgomery and Vizcaya.

October 29, 2011

Hurricanes Help the Hometown at MBC

On Saturday, October 29th, 2011, twenty-five students from the University of Miami came to MBC for Hurricanes Help the Hometown, an annual tradition where UM students volunteer locally during the week of Homecoming.  

This year the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) put in a day of work at Montgomery Botanical Center. The students weeded around rare palms and conifers to keep the weeds from out competing our valuable plants for nutrients.   

After clearing out many weeds, the group helped fill a dump truck with palm fronds that had blown off the trees during an overnight storm.  

Montgomery Botanical Center looked greatly improved after their visit and we are very thankful for their help.

October 23-28, 2011

Montgomery at International Botanic Garden Workshop in Haiti 

From 23-28 October, an international workshop was held in Port au Prince, Haiti, to explore establishing a national botanical garden to further conservation, education, environmental restoration, and economic development in Haiti.  Botanic gardens from US, Canada, France, Scotland, Haiti and the Dominican Republic participated in the workshop, which was supported by the Haitian government and organized by William Cinea of the Cayes Botanical Garden in Haiti.   

Dr. Chad Husby of MBC gave a presentation on the role of botanic gardens in conserving rare plant species and preventing their extinction.  Since Haiti has many extremely rare plants, some of which are reduced to only a handful of individuals, a national botanic garden would have a crucial role to play in conserving the endangered botanical treasures of the country and paving the way for their eventual reintroduction to the wild.  MBC already conserves one very special Haitian endemic palm, Attalea crassispatha, the only oil palm native to the Caribbean.  After the workshop presentations, participants spent two days visiting potential sites for a botanical garden as well as natural areas in Haiti.  MBC looks forward to working with Mr. Cinea and Cayes Botanical Garden on plant conservation projects.   

September 30, 2011

New Paper:
William Lyman Phillips’ Landscape Design at Montgomery

A new paper by the Montgomery Team appears in the September 2011 issue of Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes. The paper, titled: Principles and principes: William Lyman Phillips and the palm collection at Montgomery, discusses how Phillips’ design had an early impact on the landscape at MBC, and how the design has been conserved over the decades.

Phillips’ innovative work was wonderfully chronicled by his biographer, Faith Reyner Jackson, in the book Pioneer of Tropical Landscape Architecture. Jackson’s work detailed the many landscapes Phillips designed in Coral Gables and elsewhere, and his hands-on approach to his art. Jackson showcased Phillips’ work at Matheson Hammock, Crandon Park, Fairchild, and at the Panama Canal.

Yet, one important landscape that remained to be considered was Colonel Montgomery's Palm Collection, where Phillips had a important, unique influence. Now, as a botanic garden with a major emphasis on continued development of plant collections, keeping that design at Montgomery requires a special vigilance. Quoting from the paper:

"For a garden led by botanists, with a mission of plant collecting, balancing the demand to plant extensively with the design needs for space, contrast, consistency, and variety require this guidance. Even in conserving an old design, a garden is never finished. Beyond the basic work to maintain the collection and landscape, continuing reassessment of the guiding vision keeps that treasured landscape from slowly fading."

Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes is considered a leading peer-reviewed journal in its field, and approaches botanic gardens from a humanities perspective. The journal is “established as the main place in which to publish scholarly work on all aspects of garden history."

September 21, 2011

Public Lecture at MBC:
Dr. Irene Terry On the Pollination Biology of Cycads

Dr. Irene Terry recently offered a lecture at Montgomery, titled: Pollination biology of the Australian cycad Macrozamia lucida and Guam's Cycas micronesica.

Dr. Terry is an expert on cycad pollination biology, and has closely studied the mutual relationship between cycads and their pollinators. Through innovative methods, Dr. Terry has advanced our understanding of how cycads attract pollinators, and has brought to light aspects of cycad cone biology. Cycad cones sometimes produce abundant volatile compounds, which give them sometimes very distinctive fragrances. Additionally, the cones heat up significantly during the reproductive phase, which facilitates attracting the pollinators. Quoting from Dr. Terry’s recent research: “the reproductive organs of some plants self-heat, release scent, and attract pollinators. The relations among these processes are not well understood, especially in the more ancient, nonflowering gymnosperm lineages.”    

Dr. Terry’s visit to MBC is sponsored by the Kelly Foundation, as part of the Kelly Research Fellows Program, and with the support of the City of Coral Gables.

August 29, 2011

New paper: Remote Sensing as a Botanic Garden Tool

The latest issue of Arnoldia features a 'cover article' by the MBC Team. The study offers examples of ways in which remote sensing can advance and improve the work of botanic gardens.

The paper details how LIDAR data of ground elevation and canopy height, along with other imagery, were integrated into exisitng GIS (mapping) systems at Montgomery, allowing for detailed assessment and analysis of the grounds and plant collections. The new technology also opens new avenues for garden-based research.

Ericka Witcher, lead author on the study, states: "GIS technology has other uses at botanical gardens beyond keeping track of our stuff through maps. Sharing techniques and practical applications can help all of us make greater use of our resources."

Quoting from the article:

"The ability to use remote sensing data in conjunction with map files opened up entirely new ways of visualizing the garden property. Tree canopies were accurately identified by species by overlaying the mapped plant points onto the orthophotos. Map files of road edges and lake boundaries from 10 years before were adjusted to align with their current locations. Instead of looking at information imposed on a representation of the property, the information was examined in view of the property as a whole in the real world."

Arnoldia is the quarterly magazine of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. The Arnold Arboretum is the oldest public arboretum in North America as well as an important center for plant science and botanic garden innovation.  

August 19, 2011

New paper on Microcycas calocoma:
An example of Conservation through Cultivation

A new paper by the Montgomery team is the 'cover article' in the August issue of HortTechnology. Titled Palma Corcho: A Case Study in Botanic Garden Conservation Horticulture and Economics, the study details the history of the Microcycas collections at MBC, and methods used for successful propagation of the species.

The paper also looks carefully at the economics of this species, via results from the MBC-FNGLA online auction. Microcycas calocoma is a very popular and highly sought after plant, but is difficult to grow. Making this species widely available can help to lower the price of the plants by meeting the high demand. Lowered price should correspond to reduced incentive for poaching of wild plants. Quoting from the study:

". . . overcollection of wild plants is one factor leading to imperilment of natural populations.Thus, propagation and distribution of palma corcho can make a strategic contribution to in situ conservation. Provenance history of the living collections is reviewed, and techniques for propagation and establishment are detailed. An innovative botanic garden/industry partnership to provide seed for cultivation is discussed. Finally, we present analysis of market forces with regard to rare plant availability and conservation, using palma corcho as an example."

Judy Kay, lead author on the study, has been managing the Montgomery Seedbank since 1998. Judy has fine-tuned a specialized protocol for propagating this cycad over the years, and sharing that protocol is one of the major goals of the paper. Judy states: "one of the best things I can do is to help other gardens propagate their Microcycas. MBC has sent pollen out to many places, and I always enjoy going to give demonstrations on the pollination method."

August 12, 2011

James Clugston from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Talks Phenology

James Clugston, MBC's newest Kelly Botanical Research Fellow, visited MBC for three weeks to study the phenology of cycads. James Clugston is a 4th year student in Horticulture with Plantsmanship at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE). His research compares phenological data from wild herbarium specimens to phenological data in a garden collection from information in the MBC database.

On this project, James Clugston is working with Zamia primarily, due to their large numbers in our collection and in herbarium collections. But, he is also deeply interested in South African cycads, Encephalartos in particular.

James Clugston is also working on this project with Dennis Stevenson and Damon Little at The NYBG. We look forward to good outcomes from this collaborative research.

August 11, 2011

UM-HOPE Students Help Reconfigure Landscape Design

In changing times garden design and practices have changed little by little at MBC.  One example is the raised beds constructed for the cycads in the 1990s. Their drainage was poorer than anticipated and many cycads did not thrive as well on these mounds as those planted at ground level. With one of the world's largest cycad collections, many species planted at MBC are often new to horticulture.

With time we learned to fine-tune the planting process  and are now working on leveling off beds and trying to keep the area of the beds tight, allowing us to better maintain them while minimizing the use of herbicide.  Large mulched areas in full sun require a lot of labor  to maintain. Smaller beds with denser plantings are more efficient.

Nine new HOPE ­Public Interest Resource Center law student volunteers from the University of Miami came to MBC to help us with the hard work involved in removing rock mulch and reshaping some landscape beds.  The nine students were some of the fastest and fittest volunteers we have had.  They removed at least seven loads of mulch and sand from the bed that was configured.

After the project, the students took a walking tour of the property to learn about the plant collection and conservation work.

MBC is deeply grateful for large-scale volunteer projects. These projects make quick changes with long-lasting benefits.  Thank you UM-HOPE students!

August 10, 2011

NSF Intern, Nicolas Espinosa, Gives Final Report Talk 

MBC is currently supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant with FIU, USDA, NYBG, and FTBG to support Zamia research in the Caribbean. Part of the grant supported the hiring of a student intern.  Nicholas Espinosa, a student at Florida International University and an alumnus from the Fairchild Challenge program, was hired to help with the research.

Nicolas Espinosa rotated among the institutions and worked approximately one month at each location learning the specifics of horticulture, herbaria, and microscopy. Nicholas learned how to care for a living collection, press and mount herbarium specimens, and prepare slides (scroll down to the May 9 item to see more about Nicolas' work at MBC).

Nicholas was proud to announce during his lecture that he would be majoring in Biology after his time interning.  He deeply enjoyed learning about the different aspects of botany.

July 26-29, 2011

Zamia lucayana Outreach in The Bahamas

The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund recently supported a large collaborative project to study and conserve the Endangered Bahamian cycad, Zamia lucayana. The project brought together experts from The Bahamas National Trust (BNT), Florida International University (FIU), Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC), for a highly successful collaboration. Herbarium specimens, seeds, locality data, and DNA samples were collected from this very rare species endemic to Long Island.  

Public lectures were presented at meetings at the Retreat Garden National Park in Nassau and at the Community Center on Long Island.  Dr. Javier Francisco-Ortega presented a lecture about Tropical Botanical Research and Education at FIU and FTBG, Tracy Magellan presented a talk about MBC’s ex situ conservation program, Michael Calonje (MBC) presented a talk about Bahamian zamias emphasizing our findings with Zamia lucayana, and Lindy Knowles presented a talk about the Bahamas National Trust.  

The audiences were highly engaged in the findings, and interested to learn their local Zamia, known as “Bay Rush,” was a globally rare species. Informational posters and postcards were distributed to environmental and governmental agencies, to the Long Island Museum, and to several schools for distribution to students at the start of the school year.   

The outreach team returned to the Zamia lucayana populations which were visited at the start of the project one and a half years ago, and were pleased to find that the habitat remained intact. However, some of the land including Zamia lucayana plants may change ownership in the near future. The broad outreach in this project can help reach the important future stewards of this living treasure.  

The Zamia lucayana project was a highly successful project bringing together all the components of Montgomery Botanical Center’s mission of supporting research, conservation, and education.

July 6, 2011  

The Villagers Support the Arthur Montgomery Guesthouse Restoration Project  

The Villagers of Coral Gables have supported many historic preservation projects around town, with four projects focused on the restoration of the Arthur Montgomery Guesthouse. The most recent project supported the replacement of thirteen windows.  William Medellin, architect and consultant for the Institute for Museum and Library Studies (IMLS) and Heritage Preservation's Conservation Assessment Program (CAP), suggested replacing the broken glass to prevent rainwater infiltration and repairing a wind jamb that had plaster damage in his assessment of our historic structures.

Mr. Medellin also noted hairline cracks above multiple window headers. Thanks to his observations, the structural problems were noted and The Villagers supported the restoration.

The Arthur Montgomery Guesthouse now has 13 new hurricane proof windows, which will surely last for the next 75 years.   Montgomery Botanical Center thanks The Villagers for their continued support.  

May 19, 2011

Kelly Research Fellow and Palm Expert, Dr. Fred Stauffer: 
Studies Montgomery’s Palm Collection and Offers Lecture

On May 19, Dr. Fred Stauffer gave a public lecture titled, “Palms of Venezuela: Diversity, Ecology, and Conservation.”  Dr. Stauffer is Curator at Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève, Switzerland.  His lecture focused on the history, floristics, systematics, conservation, and potential uses of these palms, and also added an overview of the Jardín Botánico de Caracas, where a unique collection of palms was developed through decades of work by August Braun.  

Two hundred years ago Humboldt (German) and Bonpland (French) collected palms in the Venezuelan Amazon.  These collections are housed in European herbaria, with many lectotypes in the de Candolle Herbarium in Geneva. Dr. Stauffer carries this palm research tradition forward, and in addition to fieldwork and herbarium study, Dr. Stauffer makes extensive use of botanic garden living collections.  While at Montgomery this month, Dr. Stauffer dissected, studied and documented a great variety of palms in flower, remarking that the living collections here were a great resource for his research.  

Venezuela has over 15,000 known plant species and 261 families. With three distinct ecosystems—Caribbean, Guayanan, and Andean—Venezuela is especially rich in palm diversity, with 30 genera, 106 species, 1 subspecies, and 34 varieties.   

Dr. Fred Stauffer is the most recently named Kelly Research Fellow at MBC. The Kelly Foundation’s generous support of this program allows experts from around the world to make use of the MBC living collections for their scholarship, and to share their findings with the botanical community, students and the public through lectures. Please join MBC in thanking the Kelly Foundation for their support of plant research and education. 

May 14, 2011

The Palm Beach Palm and Cycad Society Visits Montgomery

There are many great clubs one can belong to, but only the most dedicated will drive two hours to visit a plant collection!  

Over 40 members of the Palm Beach Palm and Cycad Society visited Montgomery Botanical Center for a lecture and tour of one of the world’s finest Palm and Cycad collections on May 14.  

Montgomery Botanical Center cherishes collaborations with local, national, and international societies. To be able to share information on new science and discoveries with interested parties is a wonderful way to meet Montgomery's education mission.  

“It's great to make friends with people who share our two main interests: Palms and Cycads,” said Executive Director Patrick Griffith.  “I was thrilled that so many dedicated people traveled from two counties away to see our collection.” 

May 12, 2011

Canadian Plant Expert Studies Cycad Cones at Montgomery

Natalie Prior from the University of Victoria in Canada is visiting Montgomery Botanical Center for one month to study cycads.  Natalie has been working with Dr. Patrick Von Aderkas collecting pollination drops from cycads and analyzing their components.

For pollination to occur in most gymnosperms, a pollination drop is used to deliver pollen into the female cone.  The main function of the drop is to receive the pollen, but interestingly it has been discovered that these drops contain many organic and inorganic components, such as sugars and free amino acids. In many conifers, proteins have also been found.  The main
hypotheses for these proteins are that they function as defense mechanisms or antifreeze.

Montgomery Botanical Center is happy to welcome Natalie Prior and is looking forward to seeing what's inside a pollination drop!

May 9, 2011

National Science Foundation Intern Nicolas Espinosa Begins Tropical Zamia Project at MBC

This year Montgomery Botanical Center, along with FIU and the USDA, received a National Science Foundation grant titled, “Phylogeography and conservation genetics of the Caribbean Zamia clade.”  This grant funding is supporting the investigation of patterns of genetic variation in the Caribbean populations of Zamia throughout their range using microsatellite DNA markers.  This research is testing the convergence of genetics and evolutionary history.

NSF Intern Nicolas Espinosa, currently an undergraduate at Florida International University focusing on environmental studies and biology, is working at MBC, Fairchild, and the USDA to learn about the different topics associated with tropical zamias.

The Caribbean Islands form a biodiversity hotspot with global conservation priority. This research will outline conservation strategies for Caribbean cycads, which are all endangered species. Please join us in celebrating this great achievement and welcoming Nicolas to the team.

May 4, 2011

Conifer Expert Lectures at MBC

On May 4th, MBC hosted a seminar by Dr. James Eckenwalder, entitled "Rethinking Conifers".  Dr. Eckenwalder is Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto and his studies focus on systematics of gymnosperms, poplars and Convolvulaceae (morning glories).  In 2009, Dr. Eckenwalder published the first modern comprehensive taxonomic treatment of the world's conifers, entitled "Conifers of the World."

From April 29 to May 5, Dr. Eckenwalder has been exploring warm climate conifer collections in Georgia and Florida.  Montgomery Botanical Center was the final leg of his trip and allowed him to study the rapidly growing tropical conifer collection on the property, which now constitutes over 200 species (ca. 30% of the world's conifers).

Dr. Eckenwalder's career began on the MBC property, where he worked as a taxonomist for Fairchild Tropical Garden from 1977-1978 and stayed in the apartment of the Fairchild research building.  During his time in South Florida, Dr. Eckenwalder donated to MBC several plants he collected of the Montezuma Bald Cypress, Taxodium mucronatum, the national tree of Mexico, that he collected in the wild in Durango, Mexico, in 1974.  Of these original plants, one has survived to the present day and graces the conifer collection at MBC (see photo).

During his seminar, Dr. Eckenwalder presented an overview of the diverse forms of the world's conifer and emphasized that there is no such thing as a "typical conifer".  In addition, he highlighted the many things that remain to be learned about conifers.  Despite the intensive study of northern timber species, many of the world's conifers have received little attention, especially in tropical regions.  Although there are relatively few species of conifers remaining on earth (545 by Eckenwalder's reckoning), new species are being described on a regular basis.  Much remains to be learned about the ecology and physiology of conifers, including how they will perform in different regions.

The conifer collection at MBC is providing a laboratory for discovering which species are best adapted to South Florida.  This continues the tradition of Col. Robert Montgomery's early conifer trials at MBC in the late 1930's and Dr. John Popenoe's conifer plantings in the 1970's.  During his visit, Dr. Eckenwalder noted the importance of diverse living collections, such as those at MBC, for better understanding conifers.

May 3, 2011

Fairchild Challenge Brings Students to MBC for Environmental Immersion Day

Ten students from Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School visited Montgomery Botanical Center as part of the Fairchild Challenge’s Environmental Immersion Day.

The students participated in activities, focused on cycad biology with four rotations lasting approximately 50 minutes.  Judy Kay taught students about pollination and seed development of cycads, in theory and practice, collection of seeds, checking for embryos and viability, and pollen collection and storage. Vickie Murphy gave students hands on experience with cycad conservation practices in the nursery. Dr. Chad Husby introduced students to features that characterize cycads and differentiate them from other plant groups. Ericka Witcher took soil cores at different sites on the property and described the soil layers and their properties to the students.

One student is an aspiring botanist and was thrilled to be visiting a botanic garden for Environmental Immersion Day.  We were thrilled to expose such and interested group of young students to botany at MBC.

April 30, 2011

Key West Garden Club at Montgomery

Eight visitors from the Key West Garden Club and one Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden employee visited Montgomery for a tour of the collections of palms and cycads.

The Key West Garden Club is a non-profit organization and one of Key West's last remaining free tourist attractions. Plants are donated and maintained by members and volunteers. A group of volunteers and members drove three hours to visit Montgomery Botanical Center for a tour of the collections of palms and cycads.

Montgomery Botanical Center has a history of donating plants to local garden clubs and non-profits. Working together with organizations like the Key West Garden Club helps to educate interested plant lovers in the current conservation issues and research being conducted on palms and cycads.

April 2011

Spring/Summer 2011 Montgomery Botanical News is Now Online!

This new issue has articles about collecting in Colombia, Trinidad, Belize, and Hawaii.  It also highlights new infrastructure: the Chris Tyson Plant Conservation Building, the new Full Sun Nursery, and the New Palm Shadehouse.

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. 

April 2, 2011

Marion and Tex Haynes Patio Dedication

A highlight of the 2011 Members Meeting was the dedication of The Marion and Tex Haynes Patio.  The very generous support of Walter Haynes, Marion Haynes, and the Haynes Family has enabled MBC to add this wonderful new outdoor gathering space. This improvement restores the site to its original function back in Col. Montgomery’s time–a place to bring friends and colleagues together. This project also fully integrates the central complex of buildings at MBC, from Nell's House, south to the Guesthouse, the Studio, and all the way to the Tyson Building.

Tex and Marion Haynes were some of Robert and Nell Montgomery’s closest friends.  Marion was Matron of Honor at Nell’s wedding to Al Jennings, and has the distinction of having the longest-standing relationship with the botanic garden here. Tex Haynes, Colonel Montgomery’s business partner, was present when the Colonel first moved into the garden, and Tex was also with Col. Montgomery when he first met Nell at Chapman Field in 1934.   

Marion visited from Jacksonville as MBC’s guest of honor, and was joined by many of her family and friends. She loved the new patio, and enjoyed spending the day in the garden, and sharing stories of her times here, and about Nell and many others.

Walter Haynes, MBC Treasurer, presented a slideshow highlighting the project, and also the history of the Haynes family at MBC, beginning with a great photo of The Colonel and Tex, along with B. Y. Morrison, and Isabel and Mac Foster.

Please join MBC in thanking Marion Haynes, Walter Haynes, and their family and friends, for this very generous and important improvement to Montgomery.


April 2, 2011

Members’ Day 2011

Montgomery Botanical Center’s 52nd Members’ Meeting was held Saturday April 2, 2011.  The MBC Board of Directors announced MBC’s new President, Nicholas Kelly.  Charles P. Sacher, the outgoing President, spoke about MBC’s accomplishments during his four years as President and welcomed Mr. Kelly to his new position. MBC elects a new President every four years, in keeping with Founder Nell Montgomery’s wishes. Mr. Nicholas Kelly has served on the MBC Board of Directors since 1996.  He is President of Kelly Tractor. Nicholas Kelly’s father Loyd, served as MBC President in the 1990s.   

Dr. John Popenoe resigned as Director, but retains his board-designated title of MBC Botanical Consultant. The Board elected John’s daughter Dr. Juanita Popenoe, extension faculty for regional commercial horticulture from the University of Florida to serve as Director.  Dr. Juanita Popenoe grew up on the MBC landsite and has extensive experience with the land and plant collections at MBC.  Her horticultural expertise brings an important perspective to the Board.  Please join MBC in welcoming her.

Reports were made by Secretary-Treasurer Walter Haynes and Executive Director Patrick Griffith. The Marion and Tex Haynes Patio was also dedicated at the meeting. Please see the news item above for an account of this important dedication.

A lecture was presented by Dr. Barbara Whitlock from the University of Miami, titled, “Re-illuminating the Swingle Plant Anatomy Reference Collection.”  She described salvaging Walter Tennison Swingle’s plant anatomy collection, just prior to it being thrown out.  She also discussed making it digitally available, to reach a broad group of users.  Dr. Swingle was an expert in citrus trees and Dr. Whitlock is currently using the Swingle Collection to answer more hypotheses about that plant family. 

March 23, 2011

Zamia Fieldwork Completed in The Bahamas

The fieldwork component of a multi-institutional collaboration focused on conducting research on Bahamian Zamias has recently been completed.  The field research, conducted on five separate trips, included fieldwork on all six islands in The Bahamas in which the genus Zamia occurs. 

Research was conducted on Long Island (December 2009), Andros (February 2010), New Providence (March 2010), Eleuthera (March-April, 2010 and February 2011), Abaco (February 2011), and Grand Bahama (February 2011).

The Bahamian research was funded by the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, with additional funding for field research provided by Montgomery Botanical Center.  The field research was conducted in partnership with the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) by Dr. Javier Francisco-Ortega (Florida International University [FIU], Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden [FTBG]), Dr. Alan Meerow (United States Department of Agriculture [USDA]), Michael Calonje (MBC), Lindy Knowles (Bahamas National Trust [BNT]), David Knowles (BNT), and Camilla Adair (BNT). Additional field assistance was provided by Louis Johnson, Sarah Gilmer, Russell Adams, and Claudia Calonje (MBC).   

The field work included collecting DNA samples for genetic studies that will be conducted at Dr. Alan Meerow’s lab, herbarium specimens to document wild Zamia populations, and seeds for ex-situ preservation. 

During the fieldwork in the Bahamas we found the genus Zamia to be much more morphologically diverse than expected. For example, Zamia angustifolia has the narrowest leaflets in the genus, whereas Zamia lucayana has some of the widest leaflets among Caribbean Zamia. The diversity of habitats in which Zamia occurs was also quite surprising, as we found plants growing in pinelands, hardwood coppice, shaded coastal sand dunes, and coastal scrub.

The fieldwork resulted in a greater understanding of the distribution, ecology, and conservation status of Bahamian Zamia, and the results of the genetic studies will help clarify how different populations of Zamia in The Bahamas are related to each other and to other similar taxa found throughout the Caribbean.

March 19th & 20th, 2011  

South Florida Palm Society 2011 Spring Palm Show and Sale at MBC



March 8, 2011

Dr. Angelica Cibrian, Kelly Research Fellow at MBC

Dr. Angelica Cibrian, from the New York Botanical Garden, was hosted at Montgomery in early March as part of the Kelly Research Fellows Program.

Angelica offered a public seminar, titled: “The use of living collections to understand plant evolution, from genes across landscapes to genomes across species,” at the Nixon Smiley Meeting Room.  Dr. Cibrian’s lecture was well attended by colleagues from FIU, FTBG, the horticulture community, and local plant enthusiasts.

During this trip to MBC she collected a diverse group of cycads and conifers for ongoing broad studies of gene expression in plants that will help us understand the evolution of the seed and traits of agronomic importance in plants. This is part of her work with the New York Plant Genomics Consortium.

Angelica is working with Dr. Patrick Griffith on utilizing DNA data to maximize the conservation value of botanic garden plant collections.
Angelica recently chaired a symposium on this subject at the X Congreso Latinoamericano de Botánica in Chile.

Dr. Cibrian’s lecture also included insights on reintroduction: “Botanical garden plant collections have helped us learn many important things about plant evolution. One of the questions I am also looking at now is how useful these collections can be for sources of seed for reintroduction efforts.”

Dr. Cibrian has been using the living collection at MBC in her research for many years. She has published on the population genetics of Chamaedorea palms in Belize and Cycas micronesica in the Western Pacific. Both this palm and this cycad have specific conservation concerns, from overharvesting and exotic pests, respectively.

The Kelly Foundation generously funds our Fellows Program, which brings scholars to Montgomery to work with our plant collections and the MBC Team.

February 28, 2011

Caribbean cycad research funded by National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $457,530 grant to a team of scientists from Montgomery Botanical Center, Florida International University, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the New York Botanical Garden (Dr. Javier Francisco-Ortega, Dr. Alan Meerow, Dr. Patrick Griffith, and Dr. Dennis Stevenson) to conduct evolutionary and conservation genetics studies of species of the cycad genus Zamia from the Caribbean Islands.

The four Principal Investigators have a solid history of outstanding and productive collaborations, and their institutions have a long tradition of research concerning cycad biology and Caribbean Island plants.

The project will involve (1) molecular studies coordinated by Dr. Meerow; (2) field work and ex situ conservation, coordinated by Dr. Griffith, in association with MBC Cycad Biologist Michael Calonje; (3) graduate and undergraduate education coordinated Dr. Francisco-Ortega; and (4) taxonomy coordinated by Dr. Stevenson.

Importantly, the study also has a strong secondary education component that will be carried out in association with the Fairchild Challenge program. The project will be done in close partnership with land managers and scientists from the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas Islands.

Pictured here are Michael and Javier with Zamia pumila in the Dominican Republic, and Michael, Patrick, Alan, and Javier at Montgomery.

February 24, 2011

Dr. Cristina Lopez-Gallego, Kelly Research Fellow at Montgomery

Dr. Cristina Lopez-Gallego, Professor at the Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia, is being hosted at Montgomery as part of the Kelly Research Fellows Program at MBC. Cristina is an expert on the ecology and demographics of Zamia, and is a longtime collaborator with the MBC Team.

While at MBC, Cristina continued her work studying the phenological data on MBC Zamia collections and comparing this to the extensive data on native cycads in Colombia and Costa Rica. The timing of consecutive reproductive cycles, and how these relate to new leaf production, is an area of recent interest for cycad studies.

Cristina offered a public lecture on her work at MBC, titled "Exploring the variation in life histories and population attributes in Cycads using field studies and long-term data from botanical collections." Quoting from Cristina:

"Cycads exhibit large variation in their ecological features, like habitat, growth habit, reproductive phenology, among others. With a growing number of studies about the population biology of many cycad species across the world, we can begin to explore how species from contrasting habitats and growth habits differ in attributes like population density and stage-structure and how these differences could be the result of variation in life-history traits, for example related to allocation to fecundity and reproductive schedules in general. In this talk I will present a research program designed to investigate these questions about variation in life-history and the effects of such variation on the population biology of cycads, which could be interesting not only from a research point of view but also because of potential applications for population conservation and management."

Cristina, Michael Calonje and Alvaro Idarraga are also studying a rare cycad from an arid part of Colombia, Zamia encephalartoides. Their project aims to determine conservation options for this species.

Please join MBC in thanking the Kelly Foundation for their generous support of the Fellows Program at MBC, which allows scholars to travel to MBC for study and research, and to share this work through lectures.

February 4-5, 2011  

NTBG 2011 Scientific Symposium: Co-Sponsored by MBC  

NTBG- Kampong Fairchild Medal 2011 Speakers visiting Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC).The National Tropical Botanic Garden at the Kampong awarded the 2011 David Fairchild Medal posthumously to Monty Beekman. Dr. Beekman’s medal was accepted by Faith Foss, Professor Beekman’s widow.  

Montgomery display table at the Kampong.Dr. Beekman was professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was recognized for his achievement in translating The Ambonese Herbal, Volumes 1 through 6, published by Yale University Press in collaboration with NTBG.  

Dr. Peter Raven, president emeritus of Missouri Botanical Garden, and Dr. Henk van der Werff, Deputy Director of Research of Missouri Botanical Garden, presented the keynote address for the symposium.  Speakers included: Dr. Pieter Baas from the Netherlands Center for Biodiversity, Dr. Eric J. Buenz from Biosciential LLC, Dr. Michael R. Dove from Yale University, and Dr. Elizabeth A. Widjaja from Herbarium Bogoriense.  

Montgomery Botanical Center and the John C. Gifford Arboretum of the University of Miami were co-sponsors of the event. MBC was happy to show our work to such an important group of distinguished visitors. 

January 20, 2011

Cycad Paleontologist Gives Talk at MBC

Boglarka Erdei at Montgomery Botanical Center with Dioon Dr. Boglarka Erdei from the Hungarian Natural History Museum presented a lecture at MBC titled, "Fossil Cycads from the Cenozoic of the Northern Hemisphere."  The Hungarian Natural History Museum has 200 employees and a herbarium with 1.5 million herbarium sheets. The museum also contains a rare collection of wooden books made of tree trunks containing vegetative and reproductive structures.  

Dr. Erdei will be working as a Fulbright Scholar for three months at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida in Gainesville.   

Dr. Erdei has been studying micro and macromorphological characteristics of fossil cycads. Though much of the macromorphological characteristics are identical, the micromorphological characteristics of the extinct cycads when compared to their extant relatives are quite different. Dr. Erdei looks at the location of stomata and the guard cells associated with them, along with other micromorphological characteristics.  

Visitors to the lecture enjoyed seeing the similarities and differences between the fossilized remains and present day cycads.  Many fossilized cycads were originally though to be fossilized ferns, due to their similar macrostructure, but after close and careful observation this identification was shown to be inaccurate.  

Cycad Biologist Michael Calonje states, "It is amazing that such exquisite detail can be found in the micromorphology of fossilized cycad remains from millions of years ago. At MBC, Dr. Erdei was able to utilize our living cycad collection to quickly compile a database of samples of extant cycad species for comparative studies with extinct fossilized cycads. We were happy to see Dr. Erdei utilize our cycad collection in such a novel and interesting way."

January 13, 2011

 Plant Paleontologist Studies MBC Collections

Sabal-like fossil leafPaleontologist Kevin Aulenback gave a seminar at MBC entitled, “Conifers, Cycadeoids and Palms of the Horseshoe Canyon Formation, Alberta, Canada, with a new interpretation of fossil conifer leaf arrangement.”  This presentation focused on the plants of the formation that link most closely with MBC’s living collection. Aulenback began discussing a fossil plant often interpreted as a true cycad, however, he presented a strong case for the actual identity of the plant as a cycadeoid in the order Bennettitales, which has a markedly different cone structure that distinguishes it from modern cycads.   

Kevin Aulenback studied MBC’s cycad and palm collections to gain insights into the connections between modern and fossil floras.  He is a noted expert on the Cretaceous period flora and fauna of the extensive Horseshoe Canyon Formation (68-72 million years old) and is the author of the book Identification Guide to the Fossil Plants of the Horseshoe Canyon Formation (University of Calgary Press).  This formation is known as a rich site for dinosaur and plant fossils.   

Kevin also discussed other gymnosperms found in the formation, including ancient relatives of modern conifers.  Because interpretation of fossil fragments of conifer shoots is often challenging, he used observations on living conifers to develop a theory of how leaf arrangement varies within and between plants.  This provides insights that can clarify understanding of the structure of both modern and extinct conifers.  

The presentation concluded with a discussion of a fossil discovery that constitutes the most northerly occurrence of a palm in North America.  This palm shows affinities in leaf structure to the genus Sabal.  Another fossil palm from a later period has been found in Alberta with affinities to Serenoa, and yet another formation has yielded fossil palm seeds.  Although these had been thought to be related to Nypa, examination of MBC’s living Nypa collections convinced Aulenback that the fossil seeds are not related to modern Nypa.   

The talk highlighted the importance of careful observation of living plants for an accurate understanding of fossil plants.  This underscores the importance of living collections, such as those at MBC, for understanding both current and ancient plant diversity. 

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