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2012 MBC News Archive

 
   
 

 
Royal Lake at Montgomery Botanical Center.

View of the Palm Walk at Montgomery Botanical Center 


December 5, 2012

New arborescent species of Zamia discovered in Colombia


A new species of Zamia from the Eastern Cordillera Mountain Range of Huila, Colombia was recently described by MBC’s cycad biologist Michael Calonje (pictured at center) along with colleagues from the TOLI herbarium (Hector Esquivel, at left), Jardín Botánico José Celestino Mutis (Gustavo Morales, at right), Universidad Surcolombiana, and the New York Botanical Garden. The description was published in the December 2012 issue of Caldasia.

Previous to the recent fieldwork, only three herbarium specimens had ever been collected, the most recent in 1945! Due to the scarce collections, very little was known about the species. Very little was known about the species’ appearance, if it was distinct from previously described species, its habitat, the extent of its distribution, or its conservation status. In fact, it was unclear if this species still existed in the wild!

Supported by a grant from the Association for Zoological Horticulture, the research team set out to scout out the Eastern Cordillera of Huila near the area where the species had last been collected almost 70 years ago. Most of the region where the species had previously been collected was now largely deforested for cattle ranching and agriculture. Fortunately, small remnants of forest surrounding steep ravines and rivers had been spared in order to protect water sources, and the team was able to find healthy, reproductive populations there.

Detailed study in its native habitat verified that this was indeed an undescribed species, and it was named Zamia huilensis to honor the department of Huila where the species is endemic. This species likely remained under the radar for a long time due to intense deforestation in the region combined with lack of fieldwork.

Zamia huilensis has similar reproductive structures to Zamia tolimensis from neighboring Tolima (see story from January 1, below), but leaflets that are more similar to Zamia muricata from the Eastern plains of Colombia. It is a much smaller plant than the gigantic Zamia tolimensis and differs in its leaflet shape, whereas it differs from Z. muricata in its habit (arborescent vs. subterranean) and the shape and color of its reproductive structures.

Zamia huilensis is the fourth new species of Zamia described in Colombia in as many years, indicating that even this country with the most known Zamia species may still hold other surprises!


November 2012

New Study on the Cycads of Puerto Rico


Puerto Rican cycads are very intriguing! Dr. Alan Meerow and colleagues, including Montgomery staff, have just published a paper in the American Journal of Botany detailing the results of extensive fieldwork and labwork focused on the Zamia native to Puerto Rico.

Three species — Zamia erosa, Zamia pumila, and Zamia portoricensis — are native to the island, giving Puerto Rico a quite diverse cycad flora relative to its land area. Zamia erosa occurs on the northern side of the island, while Z. portoricensis and Z. pumila occur in the south. This study shows that all three species are genetically distinct, with Z. pumila and Z. portoricensis possibly derived from a common ancestral species on the island, and Z. erosa representing an independent introduction to the island. The three species also show different patterns of diversification. One population of Zamia erosa appears to undergoing strong natural selection currently, perhaps due to a more saline habitat. This type of selection has been seen elsewhere in Zamia, and may lead to shorter, thicker leaflets, much like those of Zamia furfuracea. Another very interesting possibility discussed is that these species may have been transplanted between islands by humans for use of the tuberous stems for food.

Populations assigned to Zamia pumila also occur in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, while some populations in Cuba and Jamaica have been referred to Z. erosa. Additional analyses of samples collected on other islands will clarify whether these populations occurring on separate islands belong to the same species, or have separately evolved similar morphology.

American Journal of Botany is the one of the leading publications for current botany research, and is published by the Botanical Society of America. This study is the latest finding of the Caribbean Zamia Project, which is a collaborative effort of USDA Chapman Field, MBC, FIU-FTBG, and NYBG. The research was generously supported by the National Science Foundation, and a Christiane Tyson Research Fellowship.


November 2012

Fall/Winter 2012 Montgomery Botanical News is Now Online!

This new issue has articles about a palms in Dominica and French Guiana, cycads in the Cayman Islands, and new agricultural equipment that we have been testing. It also highlights the Horticultural Landmark Award that MBC was given by the American Society for Horticultural Science.

Please see the back cover for information on two national grants MBC received this year and the exhibit on Montgomery Botanical Center that will be on display at the Coral Gables Museum in January and February of 2013.

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 1, 2012

Sacher Family Generously Restores 1932 Montgomery Greenhouse

The Montgomery Board, Members, and supporters gathered on the evening of November 1st to honor the family of Charles and Dorothy Sacher, who generously funded the restoration of the 1932 Montgomery Greenhouse.

The original greenhouse was built for Colonel Montgomery in 1932, the same year he established his plant collection and built his home in Coral Gables. Over the last 80 years, the greenhouse has continuously served the Montgomery mission — most every plant in the collection started out as a seedling in that greenhouse.

Careful assessment by a preservation architect, provided by the Conservation Assessment Program, determined that critical repairs were needed to ensure the 1932 structure could continue its important service.

Charles and Dorothy’s sons and their families — Charles S. and Ana Sacher, Richard and Annamaria Sacher, and John and Ana Sacher — provided the full support needed for this important work, in honor of Charles and Dorothy’s 50th wedding anniversary.

We greatly appreciate the great leadership shown by Charles S. Sacher, his brothers, and their wives in providing this generous support. Please join us in thanking the Sacher family, and congratulating Charles and Dorothy on their golden anniversary!


October 5, 2012

Dr. Nura Abdul Karim to Give Talk on The Singapore Botanic Gardens

Title: The Singapore Botanic Gardens

Speaker: Dr. Nura Abdul Karim, Plant Records Manager, Living Collection Division, Singapore Botanic Gardens

Date: Friday, October 5 at 2:30 PM

Location: Nixon Smiley Meeting Room, Montgomery Botanical Center (Refreshments will be provided)

The beauty, horticulture and science of a pre-eminent tropical botanic garden: Founded in 1859, the Singapore Botanic Gardens today encompasses 183 acres of beautiful tropical gardens and lakes, as well as facilities for botanical science, horticulture, education, the arts and visitor services. The garden encourages public access to a unique degree, being perhaps the only garden in the world that is open from 5 AM to 12 midnight every day of the year, with no admission fee except for admittance the National Orchid Garden. The garden also includes a small virgin tropical rainforest with massive rainforest trees. Among the countless outstanding plants in the garden is a fruiting specimen of the Coco de Mer, Lodoicea maldivica.

Singapore Botanic Gardens' mission: "Connecting people and plants through publications, horticultural and botanical displays, educational outreach, and events, provision of a key civic and recreational space, and playing a role as an international Gardens and a regional centre for botanical and horticultural research and training."

Beginning in 2011, the Montgomery Botanical Center and Singapore Botanical Gardens have established a plant and staff exchange that has fostered collaboration between our gardens and enhanced our collections.

About the speaker: Dr. Nura Abdul Karim completed her Ph.D. in Horticulture at the University of Western Australia studying fungal relationships with tropical orchids. Currently she heads the Plant Records Unit of the Singapore Botanic Gardens where she oversees the garden's database and ensures proper use of the collection for research and display. She is also a member of the Scientific Committee of the newly formed Pha Ta Ke Botanic Garden in Laos and along with other international researchers assists in training and aid in an advisory capacity for the staff there.

This lecture is made possible with the support of the City of Coral Gables.


September 25, 2012

Fieldwork for a New Sabal species

Recently, Dr. Doug Goldman of the USDA determined that the unusually robust palms in Brazoria County, Texas were actually a new hybrid species, Sabal x brazoriensis, the result of an ancient cross between S. minor and probably S. palmetto.

Montgomery has one of the most extensive living collections of Sabal palms known, but this new hybrid species was not among them. So, this past week, MBC Executive Director Dr. Patrick Griffith teamed up with Doug, Mr. Thomas Adams of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Col. Michael Griffith to study and collect these unique palms.

Perhaps only a few hundred Brazoria Palms survive in the wild. Fortunately, most of these thrive in a single 45-acre forest of oaks and elms, which was recently protected as part of the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge. The team collected seeds, herbarium specimens, and photographs, which will help conserve and document this very rare natural hybrid species.

Montgomery is grateful to Thomas for his time, knowledge and expertise, the Paul Drummond Fund for Palm Conservation for funding this fieldwork, the US Fish and Wildlife Service for permission to collect the palms, and to Mike and Sylvia Griffith for hospitality and logistical support.


September 24, 2012

Fieldwork by Montgomery’s Palm Biologist Featured in Palms

Dr. Larry Noblick’s recent research and conservation fieldwork in French Guiana was featured in the journal Palms, Volume 56(3). The cover photo for the recent issue features the unusual fruits of Astrocaryum paramaca, one of the species Larry studied there recently.

The article by Larry recounts his explorations of the native palm flora there, especially in search of the stemless Attalea palms. Very little is currently known about these species.

Palms is the journal of the International Palm Society, and features peer-reviewed articles on palm biology, diversity, and horticulture.


September 1, 2012

Short films about Montgomery Botanical Center

In February of 2012 James Clugston, MBC Botanical Research Fellow from Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, was inspired to develop Montgomery TV to educate the public around the world about MBC's research collections.

Montgomery Botanical Center now has a YouTube channel, Montgomery TV. On Montgomery TV you can see short films about different plants in the collection.

"I developed the concept of Montgomery TV to help communicate the fascination and beauty of the collections and science that have made such an impact on me and others who visit," said James.

Chad Husby, MBC Collections Manager, saw the potential for this medium: "Visitors to MBC often express surprise that they had not heard of such a beautiful and world class garden sooner, sometimes calling it a "well kept secret." Montgomery TV provides a powerful tool for raising public awareness of the garden and the exciting botanical work being done here."

Executive Director Patrick Griffith states, "I was thrilled to see that James Clugston brought this additional talent - filmmaker - to the Research Fellows Program. Having James showcase the botanical work we are doing, in moving pictures, is an added bonus."

Please visit Montgomery TV on YouTube; take a look at the films and subscribe to our channel.

The Kelly Botanical Research Fellows program at MBC is generously funded by the Kelly Foundation. This program brings established experts and early-career botanists to Montgomery to work with the plant collection and the Montgomery Team.


August 4, 2012

Montgomery Botanical Center
Receives National Award in Horticulture


Montgomery received the Horticultural Landmark Award from the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) on August 4, 2012

The award recognizes some of Montgomery’s best strengths. Quoting from the ASHS:

        “. . . general criteria for consideration include: permanence of site; proper documentation of the horticultural    
        collection, including origins; an underlying scientific basis for collections; [and] monitoring and labeling of plants.”


This is a very big achievement for Montgomery – previous recipients of this honor are few, and include some of the most prominent botanic gardens – The New York Botanical Garden, Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Arnold Arboretum, for example.

In presenting the award, Dr. George Fitzpatrick, chair of the ASHS award committee, highlighted Colonel Robert Montgomery’s record of significant philanthropy in support of plants, not only at MBC, but at NYBG, Greenwich, and FTBG as well. ASHS Executive Director Dr. Michael Neff spoke to the recent contributions to plant science that are helped by MBC and its team, and ASHS committee member Dr. Michael Arnold offered examples of MBC’s work to develop early-career horticulture professionals – including his own students.

The award refers to Montgomery’s origins, stating:

       “A plant collection begun in 1932 and a botanic garden established in 1959,
renowned for a dedicated focus on
        these living treasures, and celebrating decades of commitment to research, conservation and education.


MBC Executive Director Dr. Patrick Griffith made brief remarks to acknowledge Montgomery’s founders, board, staff, volunteers, colleagues, and supporters -- and singled out the visiting scientists from 
Canada, Scotland, and New York: "As evidence that we have an exceptional plant collection, note that they are all here in Miami, In August."



July 2012

Botany, Horticulture and Gardens:
Sharing Montgomery’s Work at Annual Conferences

This summer, the MBC Team presented Montgomery’s work at a series of local, national, and international conferences.

First on the list was the Florida State Horticulture Society Annual Meeting, held in Delray Beach. Patrick Griffith was invited to speak at the Horticulture Breakfast, by FSHS President (and MBC Board Member) Dr. Juanita Popenoe. Patrick gave a talk titled, "21st century botanic gardens: new challenges and opportunities."

This year’s meeting of the American Public Gardens Association – "Garden Paths"– was held in Columbus, Ohio. Patrick presented a case study of how horticulture and economics can help with plant conservation. Please see here for the online slideshow.

The Botanical Society of America’s Botany 2012 Conference was also hosted in Columbus. Quite a few speakers at Botany 2012 acknowledged the use of plants here at Montgomery, showing how our living plant collection can help advance science. MBC staff were also authors or co-authors on these talks on palms and cycads:

The 2012 ESRI International User Conference in San Diego displayed MBC work as well, as part of the Alliance for Public Gardens GIS. Ericka Witcher’s work to adapt remote sensing data for botanic garden use was included in their display.

Finally, Vickie Murphy (MBC Nursery Curator) attended both the South Florida Graduate Research Symposium, in Fort Lauderdale, and the American Society for Horticultural Science Annual Conference, which was held here in Miami. Vickie presented the results of her Master’s Thesis project to improve conservation horticulture for rare Zamia species – and her poster won an award!

“I’m thrilled to see how much great work is going on here at Montgomery, and how our service to the plant community can also help promote other research and innovations,” said Patrick. "This may be our best summer yet."


July 27, 2012

Exploring and Collecting the Flora of the Dominican Republic

A collaborative effort of three botanical gardens resulted in a very successful expedition to the Dominican Republic (DR) from July 16-26. More than 100 species of living plants were collected by the team for scientific and ornamental cultivation, ranging from palms to conifers and the giant horsetail (a fern relative). The expedition was supported by a generous donation from Lin Lougheed.

Dr. Chad Husby (Collections Manager and Botanist) of MBC teamed up with Dr. Brett Jestrow (Herbarium Curator) and Jason Lopez (Living Collection Manager) of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG) at the invitation of Ricardo Garcia, Director General of Jardín Botánico Nacional Dr. Rafael Ma. Moscoso de Santo Domingo (JBSD), to explore for plants in the Dominican Republic as part of an ongoing tradition of collaboration among these institutions. Francisco Jiménez Rodríguez (Botanical Department Director) and Alberto Veloz (Herbarium Curator) of the JBSD coordinated the visit. Expert botanist Teodoro Clase of JBSD accompanied the MBC and FTBG staff in the field and guided them with great skill.

The island of Hispaniola, of which the Dominican Republic comprises two thirds, is floristically rich with over 5,000 native plant species, many of which are endemic. This expedition focused on endemic palms and other flowering plants of the island. Special highlights included Reinhardtia paiewonskiana, the only Reinhardtia palm species native to the Caribbean and a new genus for the collections at MBC and FTBG. Sabal domingensis is another new introduction to the botanical palm collections in South Florida.

A remarkably rare and ornamental tree, Clavija domingensis, was given to MBC and FTBG by the JBSD, probably the first time this species has been introduced to cultivation outside Hispaniola. This beautiful palm-like tree is represented by at most two surviving individuals in Haiti, but is under protective cultivation and propagation at JBSD. Furthermore the primeval giant horsetail, Equisetum giganteum, the only horsetail in the Caribbean, was collected in the Cordillera Central. The breadth and depth of this expedition and its combination of local and international collaboration hearkens back to the early days of the botanical institutions in South Florida. No doubt Robert Montgomery and David Fairchild would be very pleased with the outcome.


July 23, 2012

MBC Awarded IMLS-Museums for America Grant

The U. S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded Montgomery Botanical Center a generous federal grant to support collections stewardship.

This grant will fund research to develop a plan for managing MBC’s population-based collection of cycads, a group of woody plants found in the subtropical and tropical parts of the world and at risk for extinction.

The collaborative project team will use proven genetic assay techniques to assess the genetic diversity of a botanic garden cycad collection, and then incorporate this information into collections planning for future work devoted to cycad and palm conservation.

Project results will be shared broadly with plant researchers, botanical gardens, research facilities, and the public through websites, tours, educational programming, conferences, reports, and scientific and popular publications.

Montgomery will partner with the USDA Agricultural Research Service Subtropical Horticulture Research Station and Botanic Gardens Conservation International U.S. (BGCI U.S.) to conduct this research, which will directly improve the management of MBC’s Cycad Collection, and help other botanic garden conservation efforts.


July 20, 2012

Palm Fieldwork in Dominica

Dr. Larry Noblick, MBC Palm Biologist, just returned from an 11-day expedition on the island of Dominica. He has returned with preserved specimens for scientific study and over 800 seeds for the living conservation collections.

Dominica is home to at least 10 species of palm. Larry’s interest was not only in seeing all of these species in the field, but especially those that would be in fruit this time of year. He was also interested in gathering genetically important seed samples from these populations for conservation purposes, especially Syagrus amara, which is his focus of research. Larry reports that Dominica has some of the largest forests of Syagrus amara that he has witnessed anywhere in the eastern Caribbean (left see Larry climbing a tall Syagrus).

On the right, Larry splits an inflorescence of Syagrus amara to make a voucher specimen; a duplicate of which was left at the Archibold Tropical Research and Education Center in Dominica along with some seed.

This project was generously funded by the Paul Drummond Fund for Palm Conservation and would not have been as successful without the collaboration of the Dominican Division of Forestry and the generosity of the Division of Agriculture. Special thanks to retired forester, Arlington James, who collaborated with Larry on this fieldwork project.


June 21, 2012

New Discoveries by the MBC Team Featured in PALMS

A new hybrid palm and a ‘hidden’ island palm – the MBC team reports two new discoveries in the latest issue of PALMS.

Larry Noblick, MBC Palm Biologist, has described a new hybrid species, Syagrus x mirandana. This Brazilian savanna palm is a hybrid between S. coronata and S. microphylla. The trunkless palm resembles a grass, with a long, spikelike flower shoot which rises high above the grasslike foliage. Over the course of fieldwork in Brazil, Larry has discovered much new diversity in palms, and this new hybrid is another fascinating example of how palms have adapted to grassland environments.

Also reported here is a new population of Pseudophoenix sargentii from Mona Island (see January 23, below). Conservation concerns over these palms prompted Patrick Griffith (MBC Executive Director) to team up with botanists from Puerto Rico and FIU-Fairchild (Eugenio Santiago, Jose Sustache and Javier Francisco-Ortega) to assess these unique plants. The newly discovered population on Mona is notable for its striking appearance, and is featured on the cover of this issue, PALMS 56(3).

PALMS is the journal of the International Palm Society, presenting peer-reviewed botany and horticulture on the palm family since 1956.


June 1, 2012

National Science Foundation award supports Living Plant Collections at MBC

Montgomery was recently awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation. The grant will provide modern environmental controls for living plants to further enhance MBC’s collection for the scientific community. Quoting from the NSF’s evaluation:

“This is one of the most important collections of cycads and palms in the world, both in terms of species representation and genetic diversity. The collection is heavily used by the scientific community.”

Plants from Montgomery are extensively used by scientists and many NSF-funded projects have used plant material from MBC collections. Montgomery is well known for commitment to detailed plant records, dedicated horticulture, and service to the research community.


May 15, 2012

Palm Fieldwork in French Guiana

Dr. Larry Noblick, MBC Palm Biologist, just returned from a month-long botanical expedition in French Guiana, returning with many important preserved specimens and seeds for living conservation collections.

Larry’s focus on this project was the acaulescent (stemless) Attalea palms, many of which occur in Northern South America. This group of palms has not been thoroughly examined – Larry reports that these palms do not often flower in the deep shade of the forest understory (please see the example in the upper photo). Larry also obtained collections of Syagrus inajai, an important addition to MBC’s Syagrus collection.

Below, Larry is pictured with Jean-Jacques de Granville and Sophie Gonzalez reviewing specimens in the Herbier de Guyane (CAY).

This project was generously funded by Lillian Fessenden and the Paul Drummond Fund for Palm Conservation.


May 13, 2012

Fieldwork for Zamia in the Cayman Islands

Montgomery scientists worked with botanists in the Cayman Islands over the past week to survey, document and collect specimens of Zamia integrifolia. As part of the Caribbean Zamia Project, leaflet samples from Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac – over 150 samples – were prepared for DNA analysis.

Patrick Griffith and Michael Calonje are very grateful for the collaboration of John Lawrus from the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, Fred Burton from the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, and Wallace Platts (pictured here with Michael) of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, who each participated in fieldwork. With the help of these experts, the project team now has a thorough sample of the genetic diversity in these cycads, which are locally called ‘bullrush.’

The Cayman Islands are biogeographically important, located south of Cuba and west of Jamaica. Many intriguing species are only found in these three remote islands, such as the Silver Thatch Palm, Coccothrinax proctori (pictured). Given this unique flora and geography, the bullrush from these islands is essential to understanding cycad diversity in the region.

The Caribbean Zamia Project is a collaborative effort led by Florida International University, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, the New York Botanical Garden, and Montgomery, along with collaborators throughout the Caribbean. Fieldwork in the Cayman Islands was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Please see Montgomery’s recent newsletters for further information about the project.


April 27, 2012

MBC Champion Trees Celebrated for Arbor Day

April 27 is National Arbor Day, which celebrates trees and tree planting. So, today, Miami’s National Public Radio station, WLRN 91.3 FM, interviewed the MBC team about one of MBC’s Champion Trees, the Barbados Silver Palm (Coccothrinax barbadensis). You can hear the broadcast here.

 

This individual tree was planted for Colonel Montgomery, and has thrived at MBC for 80 years – making it the largest specimen in the United States, and recognized as the Florida State Champion.

Many of Montgomery’s Champion Trees were initially located using aerial images and GIS. For Arbor Day, the experts at ESRI recently built an application that allows everyone to explore and view the Champion Trees at MBC. You can explore the Champions in the map below, or go and see the map here.

Please take a look at MBC’s Champion Trees Page for more information.

Champion Trees


April 17, 2012

Montgomery Hosts South Florida Botanic Gardens for Sentinel Plant Network

MBC and other botanic gardens have vitally important plant collections. At times, these gardens must cope with new insect pests and new pathogens. Thankfully, a new partnership – the Sentinel Plant Network – is devoted to helping gardens with this critical work.

MBC was delighted to host horticulture colleagues from Vizcaya, The Wertheim Conservatory, USDA Chapman Field, Fairchild, and as far away as Naples Botanical Garden for a one-day workshop on the Sentinel Plant Network. At the workshop, participants worked with experts from the USDA and the University of Florida: Dr. Colette Jacono, Dr. Keith Clancy, Dr. Monica Elliot, and Ms. Stephanie Stocks. The group discussed how to detect and identify pathogens and pests, and how to access the combined expertise of the network.

The Sentinel Plant Network is an initiative to help botanic gardens in the United States coordinate on the detection and management of invasive pests. It is a cooperative partnership between botanic gardens, the USDA, and the American Public Garden Association.


April 14, 2012

Plant Biologists of South Florida Meet at MBC

On Saturday, April 14, 2012, 19 talks and 10 posters were presented at the Plant Biologists of South Florida Meeting at Montgomery Botanical Center.

The Plant Biologists of South Florida are a group of scientists who meet informally once a year to share discoveries, speculations, and fellowship. Members are held together by a common interest in plant biology—making this a very diverse group of plant people.

One of the speakers, Dr. Barry Tomlinson, offered feedback which nicely summarized the meeting. He related how frequently meetings focus intensely on a single topic in a narrow field—but that "the best thing about this meeting is that it is SO diverse. It is very engaging and interesting because there are so many different topics."

Montgomery was happy to host so many longtime friends and colleagues—and make a lot of new friends—at this unique botanical gathering.


April 2012

Spring/Summer 2012 Montgomery Botanical News is Now Online!

This new issue has articles about a new Giant Zamia, and discusses fieldwork in Florida, Texas, Colombia, and on the Island of Mona. It also highlights The 9th International Conference on Cycad Biology in Shenzhen, China.

Montgomery Botanical Center also presents the two new Conservation Horticulture Fellows and the high school intern from the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Career Experience Opportunity Program.

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 17th & 18th, 2012

South Florida Palm Society 2012 Spring Palm Show & Sale at MBC


March 14, 2012

Carlos G. Martel to Give Talk on Scent Producing Organs in the Palms

On Wednesday, Carlos Martel from Museo de Historia Natural Javier Prado Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Perú will be giving a lecture on his preliminary analysis of scent-producing organs in the palm family (Arecaceae).

When: March 14, 2012 at 2pm

Where: Montgomery Botanical Center at The Nixon Smiley Building

What: Floral adaptations to attract and reward pollinators play a key role with respect to reproductive success in animal-pollinated plants. Floral scents act as secondary floral attractants to pollinators, announcing the presence and location of primary rewards (nectar, pollen etc.). The flower organs engaged in scent production may be represented either by an undifferentiated epidermis or more specialized arrangements such as osmophores or scent glands. Scent glands possess the ability to emit volatiles and are usually parts of floral organs. They can be found in the inflorescence or flowers, such as in parts of petals or anthers. A fairly large number of palm species have been analyzed for floral scents. They display a wide diversity in form and anatomy of their inflorescences, bracts and floral organs. However, no study has focused to date on the location and identification of scent-producing structures in inflorescences or flowers. I will present preliminary results of a survey on this subject and what their relationship is with the palm pollination mechanism.

Carlos' research visit to MBC is generously sponsored by the Kelly Botanical Research Fellows Program, through a grant from the Kelly Foundation.


March 10, 2012

Montgomery Botanical Center and HistoryMiami Celebrate William Lyman Phillips

On March 10, 2012, HistoryMiami and Montgomery Botanical Center jointly hosted an Inside the Vault event showcasing the work of William Lyman Phillips and his work in South Florida and Montgomery Botanical Center. HistoryMiami and MBC brought original plans and correspondence of William Lyman Phillips from both archives for this event.

Two talks were given: One by the Chair of the FIU School of Architecture John Stuart on William Lyman Phillips South Florida landscape designs and the second talk was given by MBC Executive Director Patrick Griffith on the landscape William Lyman Phillips developed at Montgomery Botanical Center. Last year, Lee Anderson and Patrick Griffith published a paper on that subject, documenting Phillips' work at Montgomery.

After the talks, a tour of the property was given. Guests were able to see legacy of William Lyman Phillips’ design, and the palm and cycad collections of national significance that MBC is known for.


March 6, 2012

Fairchild Challenge Brings Students to MBC for Environmental Immersion Day

Six students from Miami Country Day High School visited Montgomery Botanical Center as part of the Fairchild Challenge’s Environmental Immersion Day.

The students alongside their teacher, Mr. Tom Sverkounos, participated in activities focused on cycad biology with four rotations. 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 taught students how to plant in the nursery. Dr. Larry Noblick taught them about different palms at the garden. Ericka Witcher discussed soils at different sites on the property and described the soil layers and their properties.

MBC is happy to play a role in exposing young students to botany and supporting our critical mission of education.


February 17, 2012

Dr. David de Laubenfels Lectures on the Origins of the Pine Family at MBC

Dr. David de Laubenfels, Professor Emeritus of Geography at Syracuse University, New York, presented a lecture on relationships between and within two very important conifer families: the Cupressaceae (focusing on our native Florida bald cypress, Taxodium distichum, and its Southeast Asian relative, Glyptostrobus pensilis) and the Pinaceae.

Dr. de Laubenfels is the world authority on tropical conifers, especially in the South Pacific. He is also an authority on the genus Cycas. In addition to botany, Dr. de Laubenfels has published papers in geography, linguistics and anthropology, and pursues interests in physics and cosmology.

During his visit to South Florida, David studied the large tropical conifer collection at MBC.


February 4, 2012

Nick Dominguez Completes Eagle Scout Project at MBC

On Saturday, Nick Dominguez from Troop 457 completed his Eagle Scout project at Montgomery Botanical Center. Over 79 people worked on the project, volunteering nearly 500 hours of time.

Nick managed the construction of a outdoor storage structure and a fence around Montgomery Botanical Center’s original well house on the south side of the property. Troop 457 also spread over 2,000 lbs of mulch near the well house. They also planted some vines around the structure, to help integrate it into the landscape.

Montgomery Botanical Center is grateful for the help of Nick, all the Scouts and their families—500 hours of service puts our work very far ahead, and the in-kind value of these improvements is enormous.


February 1, 2012

MBC Donates Plants and Seeds to Zelda Glazer Middle School

On Wednesday, Montgomery Botanical Center donated 34 plants and many seeds to Zelda Glazer Middle School for their Native Wildlife Habitat. Ana Casanova, a science teacher at Zelda Glazer Middle School, has been engaging her students in planting a vegetable garden and a native Florida wildlife habitat.  They are building an outdoor classroom and they even have their own greenhouse.  

Montgomery donated 25 Zamia floridana plants, 9 Sabal minor plants, wild coffee seeds, and silver palm seeds to the school.  The students were excited to have so many new plants for their wild habitat.  

Supporting science education—through living plant collections—is at the core of Montgomery Botanical Center’s mission.  

“It was great to see so many young students excited about all the new plants they will be adding to their garden,” Tracy Magellan said. “Zelda Glazer Middle School is a new school, opening in 2007, so there is a lot of space to grow a plant collection. Seeing the school actively support gardening by investing in a greenhouse and an outdoor classroom is inspiring.”


January 31, 2012

The Villagers Support Nell’s House Front Entrance Restoration

The Villagers awarded MBC a grant to support the restoration of the iconic entrance to Nell’s House. Many early photos and videos were taken using the door as a backdrop. Constructed in 1932, the wrought iron door was intended as a symbol of Montgomery's love for palms and cycads, and through this restoration funded by The Villagers, the door can continue to symbolize MBC’s dedication to its palm and cycad collection.    

The Villagers are dedicated to the restoration and preservation of historic sites. They have supported numerous projects here at Montgomery Botanical Center. The most recent projects have supported the restoration of the Arthur Montgomery Guesthouse. Thanks to The Villagers, the doors are restored and are looking beautiful once again – just in time for the 80th anniversary of both the Nell’s House door and the plant collection it represents!


January 28, 2012

NSF Cycad Biology Teachers Workshop

On January 28th, New York Botanical Garden, Florida International University, Fairchild Tropical 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).  

Six high school teachers and Shelley Cant, Education Officer from the Bahamas National Trust, attended the course.  NYBG, FIU, FTBG, BNT, 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: field components using the living collections of MBC and classroom lectures and laboratory demonstrations at the Center for Tropical Plant Conservation of Fairchild.  

“It’s great to see the enthusiasm our local science teachers new have for the latest cycad research,” said Griffith. “The interface between current botanical science and current education is critical.”


January 23, 2012

Fieldwork for a rare palm on Mona Island

Montgomery Botanical Center and collaborators recently conducted a field project in search of a rare palm on Mona Island.

Pseudophoenix sargentii is found in many places in the Caribbean Basin, including the Florida Keys – where it is known as the Buccaneer Palm. Where it does occur, the populations tend to be small, with only a few palms in each place.

Mona is a remote, uninhabited island halfway between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Over the years, reports from Mona Island varied. Some counted two dozen Pseudophoenix palms, some claimed fewer – one alarming report claimed only one palm was left!

A grant from the International Palm Society sent four botanists to study and conserve this treasured plant. Patrick Griffith (from MBC) and Javier Francisco-Ortega (FIU and FTBG) teamed up with Eugenio Santiago (Botany Professor at UPR), and Jose Sustache, (DNRA Botanist) for the project.

Over several days of fieldwork, the team thoroughly documented these rare palms on Mona Island – making specimens, detailed notes, and photographs – and collected seeds for conservation. This work can lead to better understanding and protection of other Pseudophoenix populations as well as the Mona Island palms.


January 1, 2012

A New “Giant Zamia” Discovered: Zamia tolimensis

Montgomery begins the New Year with an exciting new discovery a new species of cycad, Zamia tolimensis, from the “Cordillera Central” mountain range of Colombia. This new species is remarkable for being a large, treelike Zamia The leaves can be up to 8 feet long, with a trunk over 10 feet tall!

In describing this very interesting discovery, Montgomery staff members Michael Calonje and Claudia Calonje worked closely with colleagues Hector Eduardo Esquivel and Deicy Pava of the University of Tolima Herbarium and Dennis Stevenson of the New York Botanical Garden.

Locally, the plants are known as “palma de yuca”, due to the young stems’ resemblance to the edible tubers of cassava. The team named the new cycad to honor the Department of Tolima, where the species is native.

Some intriguing early specimens hinted at a possible new Zamia yet to be described. Fieldwork in remote areas of the Colombian highlands in 2011 confirmed that the plants from Tolima are a distinct new discovery, easily distinguished from other large South American Zamia species (such as Z. poeppigiana and Z. lindenii).

This is the first cycad species discovered in the highlands of the Central Cordillera of Colombiathe native areas where Z. tolimensis grows are highly inaccessible, perhaps explaining why such an impressive species remained unknown to science until last year. Despite remaining inaccessible to researchers for many years, the plants are considered Critically Endangered due to a high rate of deforestation throughout their native range.

The formal description of Zamia tolimensis can be found in the December 2011 issue of BRITTONIA.


January 2012

 MBC's plant collection turns 80 years old: The Coconut Grove Palmetum, 1932

Colonel Montgomery traveled around Florida in the summer of 1932 buying large specimen palms from nurseries, growers, and private collectors. The Colonel obtained specimens of every palm species known to be growing in Florida at that time — around 150 species in all.

Colonel Montgomery developed his palmetum with the advice of David Fairchild and Tom Fennell, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Introduction Station at Chapman Field. In that first year, the Colonel successfully transplanted about 700 specimen palms to the estate — and named it the Coconut Grove Palmetum.

Before long, ten acres had been cultivated and 237 palm species (over 1,000 mature specimens) had been planted in the Palmetum. Col. Montgomery spent a total of $80,000 on plants, grading, landscaping, and planting during the first two years. This greatly exceeded the $10,000 he spent for the property and the $22,000 he spent to build his house.

The Coconut Grove Palmetum was Colonel Robert Montgomery’s private palm collection and estate. In 1959, Nell Montgomery renamed the property and established a not-for-profit in his memory, now known as Montgomery Botanical Center.

Over the course of 80 years, the Colonel's Palmetum has now developed into a thriving center for botanical research and conservation — and MBC looks forward to further good work.

For details of MBC’s early and recent history, please visit the History Page, browse our Newsletters, and also see our News Archives.


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