Botany Blog

Updates from the Selby Gardens Botany Department

  • 05/04/2012 - 10:04am

    Our second trip to Roraima-tepui during March 2012 in southern Venezuela was a success. We faced similar logistical challenges as last year, but in the end we were able to fly to the tepui summit by helicopter and spend 14 days collecting and photographing plants, and conducting vegetation and soil studies. Our team of four (myself, Shingo Nozawa, Yuribia Vivas, Elisabet Safont) worked together the first week in the southern part of the mountain, which was a new area for us. We found lots of new things and documented an alarming number of new exotic-invasive species for the summit, likely carried up on boots or in gear by unknowing visitors. The second week, Elisabet Safont from Spain, and I, set up another camp in the northern part of the mountain, a day’s-hike away. There we managed to enter three areas we were not able to the year before, in part because of the dense fog and lack of time. The weather was friendlier to us this year and we only had two days of serious rain.

    One of the more exciting areas we went into is known as the “Great Labyrinth,” which is a huge rock maze with towering, oddly shaped pinnacles that cover about 10% of the mountain summit. Since so few people have ever ventured into the Labyrinth, we felt it was important to take a look. It is not easy to enter, but we found a hole (literally, a round hole in one of the rocks), and entered into a hidden, lush valley that was fascinating to explore. It would take weeks to explore completely, but unfortunately that was our last day. The helicopter, though arriving a few hours late, picked us up on the planned departure date. We flew down to meet our team members who had continued working in the south, shared the excitements of our discoveries over the roar of the helicopter blades, and then packed everything back into the truck for the two-day drive back to Caracas.

    Photo: Elisabet Safont, from the Botanic Institute of Barcelona, explores the summit of Roraima-tepui. Photo and video by Bruce Holst

    Helicopter Landing - From Roraima pics 2012
    Category: News
  • 03/05/2012 - 4:23pm

    Selby Botanical Gardens, the Institute for Regional Conservation and Everglades National Park have partnered to identify, collect, propagate, and augment populations of the rarest plant species of Everglades National park. The first major outplanting of one orchid and one fern was conducted in July of 2011. A follow-up inspection in February 2012 demonstrated that half of the orchids and 1/5 of the ferns had survived. Additional outplantings will occur in July 2012.

    Bruce Holst will give a lecture on the Everglades project on Wednesday, April 4th in the Great Room by the Bay.

    Photo Credit: Wade Collier

    Category: News
  • 03/05/2012 - 4:20pm

    Selby Botanical Gardens has joined the Global Plants Initiative, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with aims to digitize and make available for students and researchers over 2 million records of plant type specimens from around the world. The GPI network currently includes more than 166 partner herbaria representing almost 60 countries. The output of GPI is presented through JSTOR Plant Science, an online environment that brings together content, tools, and people interested in plant science. The GPI not only repatriates data back to countries from which the specimens originated; within a fraction of time and cost it would take to visit herbaria or loan specimens, type specimen data are made available to a wider audience.

    Photo Credit: Bruce Holst

    Category: News
  • 03/02/2012 - 4:55pm

    Selby Botanical Gardens has just completed 16 miles of botanical transects through the Walton Ranch Preserve in south Sarasota County. The Walton Ranch Preserve was purchased through the County’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands Program, and contains a mixture of high-quality wetands and hammocks, mixed in with pasture. Selby Gardens botanists documented the presence of 333 species of vascular plants, including four species never before collected in Sarasota County. The work was conducted from July 2011 through January, 2012. Selby Gardens has previously conducted botanical surveys on the following Sarasota County properties: Deer Prairie Creek Preserve, Walton Ranch Preserve, Curry Creek Preserve, Red Bug Slough, Circus Hammock Preserve, Sleeping Turtles Preserve, and the Old Myakka Preserve.

    There is a lecture on the Walton Ranch Project on Wednesday April 4, 2012

    Photo Credit: Bruce Holst

    Category: News
  • 03/01/2012 - 6:19pm

    In preparation for a series of publications on the pleurothallid genera of Brazil, twenty-four new species have been discovered by Selby Gardens botanist Antonio Toscano de Brito and collaborator Carlyle Luer of the Missouri Botanical Garden. The new speciest are described and illustrated in Harvard Papers in Botany. Two new species, Acianthera klingelfusii and Anathallis johnsonii, are described for Argentina, the former also occurs in Brazil, while the other 22 species are exclusively Brazilian in distribution.  The new species are: Anathallis crassapex, A. dantasii, A. gutfreundii A. paula, A. pilipetala, A. seidelii, A. velvetina, Pabstiella acrogenia, P. analoga, P. capijumensis, P. decurva, P. discors, P. freyi, P. gossameri, P. lacerticeps, P. melior, P. nymphalis, P. osculator, P. quasi, P. sansonii, P. savioi, and Specklinia erecta. Eleven new combinations were also proposed in the Brazilian Pleurothallidinae: Pabstiella bicolor, P. colorata, P. diffusiflora, P. dracula, P. ochracea, P. pantherina, P. punctata, P. purpurea, P. seriata, P. viridula, and Specklinia barbosae.

    This work was done as part of the Selby Gardens' project Pleurothallid Orchids of Brazil: Inventory, Classification, and Conservation.  The main goals of the project are to produce an authoritative monograph of the Brazilian Pleurothallid orchid genera and species, to help establish the boundaries between the genera, and to help document the distribution of rare species in order to better conserve them. In collaboration with local institutions in southeastern Brazil, Dr. Toscano de Brito conducted a field expedition to the Atlantic Rain Forest during 2011 when he collected specimens for morphological and molecular studies. He embarks on another expedition on June 2012.

    “Pleurothallids” are a group of approximately 4000 species of small epiphytic orchids found in predominantly montane regions of the New World tropics. Sometimes called “jewels of the rain forest” because of their beautiful and colorful flowers, approximately 600 species are found in the threatened Atlantic Rain Forest or Mata Atlântica, of which less than 6% of original cover remains.

    The project is part of an ongoing multidisciplinary study, which involves collaboration of Brazilian and American research institutes. Until recently it has been funded by the Swiss Orchid Foundation at the University of Basel, and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin America Studies, Harvard University, and the Universidade Federal do Paraná. Field work is funded by the National Geographic Society and lab work by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The project is currently being undertaken at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in collaboration with Dr. Carlyle A. Luer, senior curator of the Missouri Botanical Garden and the leading authority on this orchid group.

    Category: News
  • 02/28/2012 - 9:50am

    In the latest issue of the Tropical Dispatch, Bruce Holst gives an update on the Roraima-tepui project.  Roraima-tepui is a spectacular table mountain in SE Venezuela that juts prominently from the lowland forest. It is home to over 200 species of vascular plants, some which grow nowhere else in the world. The goals of this project are to conduct a thorough, modern botanical inventory of the mountain which was scaled for the first time in 1884 and compare our results with that expedition and others that followed in order to rediscover and map the distribution of twenty five rare plant species, to evaluate certain vegetation formations for possible long-term studies of the effects of climate change on the flora of the tepuis, and to gather data and photographs of the summit flora for use in a future book.

    Three partner institutions are involved in the project, the Institute of Botany in Barcelona, the Botanical Institute Foundation of Caracas, Venezuela, and Selby Botanical Gardens. Major funding for the work is provided by the BBVA Foundation of Spain (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, also known as the First Bank of Spain) and partner institutions.

    For more information on this project, visit the project site.

    Photo Credit: Shingo Nozawa

    Category: News