Botanical Research at Selby Gardens

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Plant science and conservation have been important activities at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens since its founding in 1973. The Botany Department specializes in plant inventory and classification, which is the basic information needed to understand and conserve plant diversity. Staff scientists address the questions, “What are plants called, where do they grow, and how are they related?” Answers involve studies of plant distribution, morphology, molecular systematics, and ecology through research in the field, in the greenhouse, and in the laboratory.  Staff botanists, associates, and volunteers work as a team to advance conservation projects at local, regional, national, and international levels.

The Selby Gardens Botany Department is the headquarters of the Mulford B. Foster Bromeliad Research Center (BRC), the Gesneriad Research Center (GRC) and the Orchid Research Centers, (ORC), as well as the Herbarium, Molecular Studies Lab, Spirit Lab, Research Library, and the staff and volunteers offices. The Gardens’ collections include extensive living and preserved plants, photographs, and literature, providing a rich environment for conducting botanical research. 

Facts & Figures

• Hundreds of expeditions into the tropics and subtropics by Selby Gardens botanists have contributed to the most diverse living and preserved collection of epiphytes in the world.

• The Selby Gardens living collection numbers 12,000 plant accessions in 214 families.

• The Herbarium (SEL) has more than 100,000 dried specimens, with 2000 taxonomic types (the actual plant used in naming a new species). The Spirit Collection has 29,000 preserved orchid, gesneriad, and bromeliad flowers.

• The Research Library houses 7,000 books, including a rare book collection and several hundred active periodicals, along with engravings, slides, videotapes, and microfiche files.

• Selby Gardens’botanists have discovered and/or described some 2,000 plant species new to science.

• Selbyana, a peer reviewed journal, published since 1975, publishes original research on tropical plants with emphasis on epiphytic plant families. Subscribers in 40 nations include libraries at 200 universities and botanical institutions.

• Volunteers and research interns work with staff on tasks that range from pressing, labeling, and scanning plant specimens to identifying plants, conducting fieldwork, proofing publications, and assisting with collections and library management.