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 MBCteamed 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.