Photo of the construction of the Gatehouse and the Greenhouse

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.