Palm Conservation

Palm Conservation at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

The Palm Conservation program implements palm conservation expertise and develops practical models for palm conservation. Through both local and global programs, Fairchild's Palm Conservation team takes a multidisciplinary approach to conservation, examining biological questions related to plant rarity, as well as conserving natural areas where palms grow. Fairchild hosts the internationally recognized Palm Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. 

  • The Conservation Genetics of Pseudophoenix sargentii in Biscayne National Park
  • Palm Family Phylogeny: A Global Perspective on Palm Biodiversity
  • A New Look at Palm Anatomical Diversity
  • The Palms of New Guinea, A Center of Palm Diversity
  • Palm Conservation in Madagascar
  • Palm Root Biology
  • Student Research Projects
  • Palm DNA Bank
  • Fairchild Guide to Palms
  • The Palm Specialist Group
  • Recent Publications from the Palm Conservation Program

Sargent's Cherry Palm (Pseudophoenix sargentii) in Biscayne National Park
Working in partnership with Biscayne National Park (Florida), Fairchild scientists are examining the genetic diversity found in the handful of plants of Pseudophoenix sargentii that remain on Elliott Key. Funded by a grant from the National Parks Service, Fairchild scientists used high-tech molecular tools to compare the remaining genetic diversity with that of seedlings out-planted by Fairchild. 


Palm Family Phylogeny: A Global Perspective on Palm Biodiversity
Dr. Carl E. Lewis joins a team of researchers from Cornell University, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK), and the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University (Denmark) to uncover the palm family tree, or phylogeny. This unprecedented team effort to discern the relationships among all the genera of palms will be a major step forward in understanding the evolutionary history of palms. It will allow the Palm Conservation team to identify evolutionary lineages of palms in need of conservation.


A New Look at Palm Anatomical Diversity
Work on a global survey of the vegetative anatomy of palms is now in progress at Fairchild, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The work will culminate in a new (second) edition of Vol 2. Palmae in the series "The Anatomy of the Monocotyledons" published by Oxford University Press. The work will shed light on how rare and endangered palms are adapted to unique environments, which in turn will help horticulturists maintain collections of endangered palms in cultivation. More information on the palm anatomy work at Fairchild can be found HERE.


The Palms of New Guinea, a center of palm diversity
Palm Biologist Dr. Scott Zona and a team of researchers headed by Dr. Bill Baker of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK), are identifying and documenting all the palms of New Guinea. An important component of this work, which will be published in book form in 2008, is a conservation assessment of all of the 270 species of palms. Dr. Zona will contribute accounts of the genera Brassiophoenix, Drymophloeus, Ptychosperma and Ptychococcus.


Palm Conservation in Madagascar
Botanists and horticulturists from Fairchild are working with MATE (Man and the Environment), a conservation organization managing the Vohibola forest reserve on the eastern coast of Madagascar. The reserve is home to many endemic plants and palms, including at least one species new to science! While Fairchild botanists record the diversity and abundance of Vohibola's palms, Fairchild horticulturists are assisting MATE staff in their efforts to grow these palms, and other trees, in an on-site nursery.


Palm Root Biology
One-half of every palm is underground and is largely unknown to botanists. Propagating rare palms and restoring them into wild habitats require a solid understanding of the biology of the root system, especially if soil microorganisms are needed for healthy plants. In an innovative program initiated at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Dr. Jack Fisher and Florida International University's Dr. K. Jayachandran are examining the little-known world of palm root biology as it relates to palms of conservation concern.

Student Research Projects
Currently, two post-graduate students are working on projects with direct application to conservation. Karen Laubengayer (Florida International Univ.; M.S. 2008) is studying the diversity within the species Aiphanes minima from the Lesser Antilles. Her work will determine whether additional species should be recognized and conserved. Roxaneh Korsand (Florida International Univ.; Ph.D. 2011) is examining pollinator abundance and fruit production in populations of Mauritia flexuosa in South America. This palm's fruits are a critical food resource for both people and animals in the region.


Palm DNA Bank
The recent advances in gene sequencing are allowing molecular biologists to study palm evolution with a degree of precision never before possible. Fairchild's living palm collection is an invaluable resource for researchers looking at palm DNA. With assistance from a grant from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust, Dr. Carl E. Lewis has created one of the world's most important DNA banks. He is using the DNA in his own work on palm molecular evolution and conservation, and he shares the samples with researchers all over the world.


Fairchild Guide to Palms
Palm growers, scientists and conservationists have a new on-line tool for understanding palms. The Fairchild Guide to Palms compiles Fairchild's photographs, living collection records, herbarium images and conservation information in a single, easy to use website. The Guide is  funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services as a model for collections management. Click here for the Fairchild Guide to Palms.


The Palm Specialist Group
The World Conservation Union/Species Survival Commission's Palm Specialist Group is a global network of experts who are building a scientific and practical foundation for the conservation of palms. Its mission is to conserve palms by developing and implementing programs to save, restore and manage palm species and their habitats. Dr. Scott Zona is chair of the Palm Specialist Group and is coordinating the new conservation assessments for all of the world's palms. Click here to access the PSG webpage.


Recent Palm Publications from the Palm Conservation Program

Baker, W.J., S. Zona, C.D. Heatubun, C.E. Lewis, R.A. Maturbongs & M.V. Norup. 2006.
Dransfieldia (Arecaceae) B A new palm genus from western New Guinea.
Syst. Bot. 31: 61B69.

Dransfield, J., N.W. Uhl, C.B. Asmussen, W.J. Baker, M.M. Harley, & C.E. Lewis. 2005.
A new phylogenetic classification of the palm family, Arecaceae. 
Kew Bulletin 60: 559B569.

Fisher, J. B. & K. Jayachandran. 1999.
Root structure and arbuscular mycorrhizal colonization of the palm Serenoa repens under field conditions.
Plant and Soil 217: 229B241.

Fisher, J. B. & K. J. Maidman. 1999.
Branching and architecture in palms: Value for systematics.
Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 83: 35B46.

Fisher, J.B., H.T.W. Tan, & L.P.L Toh. 2002.
Xylem of rattans: vessel dimensions in climbing palms.
Amer. J. Bot. 89: 196B202.

Fisher, J. & S. Zona. 2006.
Unusual branching in Manicaria.
PALMS 50: 99B102.

Guerrant, E., K. Havens & M. Maunder (editors). 2004.
Ex-Situ Plant Conservation: Supporting Species in the Wild.
Island Press in association with Society for Ecological Restoration International (SER) and the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC). 504 pages.

Lewis, C.E. 2002.
A phylogenetic study of palm subtribe Oncospermatinae based on morphological characters.
Brittonia 54:78B91.

Lewis, C.E., C.B. Asmussen, & W.J. Baker. 2000.
DNA and palm evolution.
PALMS 44: 19B24.

Lewis, C.E. & J.J. Doyle. 2001.
Phylogenetic utility of the nuclear gene malate synthase in the palm family (Arecaceae).
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 19:409B420.

Lewis, C.E. & J.J. Doyle. 2002.
A phylogenetic analysis of palm tribe Areceae using two low‑copy nuclear genes.
Plant Systematics and Evolution 236:1B17.

Lewis, C.E. & N. Martinez. 2000.
Identity of the Hyophorbe palms at the Botanical Garden of Cienfuegos, Cuba.
PALMS 44: 93B97.

Lewis, C.E. & S. Zona. 2000.
A survey of cyanogenesis in palms (Arecaceae).
Biochem. Syst. Ecol. 28: 219B228.

Maunder, M., K. Havens, E. Guerrant & K. Dixon. 2004.
Realizing the full potential of ex-situ contributions to global plant conservation. Pp. 389B418.
In: Guerrant, E.O. Jr., K. Havens & M. Maunder. (editors). Ex-Situ Plant Conservation: Supporting Species in the Wild. Island Press, Washington D.C.

Maunder, M., K. Havens, E. Guerrant & D. Falk. 2004.
Ex-situ methods: A vital but underused set of conservation resources.  Pp. 3B20.
In: Guerrant, E.O. Jr., K. Havens & M. Maunder. (editors). Ex-Situ Plant Conservation: Supporting Species in the Wild. Island Press, Washington D.C.

Maunder, M., C. Hughes, J. Hawkins & A. Culham.  2004.
Hybridization in ex-situ plant collections: conservation concerns, liabilities and opportunities. Pp. 325B364. 
In: Guerrant, E.O. Jr., K. Havens & M. Maunder. (editors). Ex-Situ Plant Conservation: Supporting Species in the Wild. Island Press, Washington D.C.

Roncal, J., S. Zona & C. E. Lewis. 2005.
Calyptrogyne plumeriana, a new taxonomic combination.
PALMS 49: 149, 150. 

Stanley Price, M., M. Maunder & P. Soorae 2004.
Ex-situ support to the conservation of wild populations and habitats: lessons from zoos and opportunities for botanic gardens.  Pp. 84B110.  In: Guerrant, E.O. Jr., K. Havens & M. Maunder. (editors). Ex-Situ Plant Conservation: Supporting Species in the Wild. Island Press, Washington D.C.

Tomlinson, P.B. & J.B. Fisher. 2000.
Stem vasculature in climbing Monocotyledons: A comparative approach, pp. 89B97.
in K.L. Wilson & D.A. Morrison (eds). Monocotyledons: Systematics and Evolution.
CSIRO, Melbourne, Australia.

Tomlinson, P.B., J.B. Fisher, R.E. Spangler, & R.A. Richer. 2001.
Stem vascular architecture in the rattan palm Calamus (Arecaceae ‑ Calamoideae ‑ Calaminae).
Amer. J. Bot. 88: 797B709.

Zona, S. 1998.
Chuniophoenix in cultivation.
Principes. 42: 198B200.

Zona, S. 1999.
New perspectives on generic limits and relationships in the Ptychospermatinae (Palmae: Arecoideae).
Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 83: 255B263.

Zona, S. 1999.
A revision of Drymophloeus (Arecaceae: Arecoideae).
Blumea 44: 1B24.

Zona, S. 2000a.
Arecaceae, p. 95B123,
In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee (eds.), Flora of North America, vol. 22.
Magnoliophyta: Alismatidae, Arecidae, Commelinidae (in part), and Zingiberidae.
Oxford Univ. Press, New York.

Zona, S. 2000b.
A personal history of Drymophloeus in New Guinea.
PALMS 44: 184B186.

Zona, S. 2001.
Starchy pollen in Commelinoid monocots.
Annals of Botany 87: 109B116.

Zona, S. 2002a.
Roystonea regia.
Enzyklopädie der Holzgewächse III‑4, part 26, pp. 1‑5.

Zona, S. 2002b.
A revision of Pseudophoenix.
PALMS 46: 19B38.

Zona, S. 2002c.
Name changes in Attalea.
PALMS 46: 132B133.

Zona, S. 2005.
A revision of Ptychococcus.
Syst. Bot. 30: 520B529.

Zona, S. 2006.
Cyanogenesis in hearts of palm (Arecaceae).
Tropical Science 46: 180B184.

Zona, S. & F.B. Essig. 1999.
How many species of Brassiophoenix?
Palms (formerly Principes) 43: 45B48.

Zona, S, D. Evans & K. Maidman. 2000.
La palma barrigona.
PALMS 44: 85B87.

Zona, S. & K. Maidman. 2001.
Growth rates of palms in Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.
PALMS 45: 151B154.