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Cultivating International Partners for Mutual Benefit

Myrmecophila Orchid

Myrmecophila Orchid

Unlike artwork in a museum, the Selby Gardens’ collec­tions are made up of living plants (unless they are part of our spirit or herbarium collections) that require care and maintenance for healthy growth and development. Despite best efforts, nothing lives forever. Therefore some of the field expeditions conducted by the botanical researchers at Selby Gardens are intended at least in part to collect new acquisitions to add to or replace plants in our living collection.

Laurie Birch and David  Troxell collecting a Trichocentrum orchid

Laurie Birch and David Troxell collecting a Trichocentrum orchid

During a recent visit to Belize in Central America, Selby Gardens’ Bruce Holst, Laurie Birch, and volunteer David Troxell worked with Ella Baron of Caves Branch Botanical Garden and Elma Kay of the Environmental Research Institute at the University of Belize to document and collect epiphytes across the country. The team visited five locations from mid-April to mid-May with plans to return in 2015. The locations were selected both for their relative ease of access and habitat diversity. In the future, sites will be located in more remote areas in an effort to visit all of the known habitat types in Belize. The trip produced 300 new living specimens representing 160 species and 174 herbarium specimens representing 60 species.

According to Holst, the expedition was “a perfect fit” for Selby Gardens’ to undertake. “I’ve conducted numerous botanical inventory expeditions to Belize since 1992, and because of the support of CBBG and UB, we have great logistics and contacts to efficiently conduct the work. Also, the epiphytes of Belize grow well in our climate.”

Preparing specimens at Cave's Branch Lodge  in Belmopan, Belize

Preparing specimens at Cave’s Branch Lodge in Belmopan, Belize

In addition to the financial support for the effort provided by Caves Branch, other benefits of this partnership include having graduate students from Belize become involved in various aspects of epiphyte diversity, using baseline data Selby has on file. The Gardens, Caves Branch and UB hope to collaborate on a book about the epiphytes of Belize. Ella Baron and two staff from Caves Branch Botanical Garden will visit Selby Gardens in November to observe living and preserved plant care techniques.

For more information or ways to support the field expeditions conducted by the botanical researchers at Selby Gardens, contact Bruce Holst, Director of Botany at 941.366.5731, ext. 312 or