Plant Hunting in the Canary Islands

Friday, July 25, 2014

In July of 2014 Fairchild Herbarium Curator Dr. Brett Jestrow and FIU-Fairchild Faculty Dr. Javier Francisco-Ortega travelled to the Canary Islands to collect plant material for the Garden living collections and herbarium. The trip also aimed to develop links with one of the most venerable botanic gardens of Spain: The Jardín de Aclimatación de La Orotava on Tenerife. This botanic garden was founded in 1788, making it one of the oldest tropical botanic gardens within the European Union and the second oldest continuously operating botanical garden in Spain. Three islands were visited: La Gomera, La Palma, and Tenerife. In Tenerife they also visited the new Palmetum Garden at the capital of the island, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. This is a municipal garden that opened recently to the public and that was created over the main trash hill of the city on the coastal area. The garden provides an example of creative ways to restore highly degraded areas within an urban setting. During this expedition 138 wild-collected herbarium specimens with multiple duplicates and 40 different bags of seed and cuttings were collected from the different islands and gardens. Seeds of Caribbean plants brought from Fairchild were provided to Orotava and Palmetum. During this trip our botanists were hosted by Dr. Alfredo Reyes-Betancort (Director of Orotava) and Dr. Arnoldo Santos-Guerra (graduate mentor of Dr. Francisco-Ortega). Image below: Left.- individual of the African cycad Encephalartos laurentianus, photo taken by David Fairchild in 1927. Right.- the same cycad individual in July 2014, from left to right: Dr. Manuel Caballero, President of Instituto Canario de Investigaciones Agrarias; Dr. J. Francisco-Ortega; Mr. Lucio Crisóstomo Medina, General Secretary of  Instituto Canario de Investigaciones Agrarias; Dr. B. Jestrow, Dr. A. Reyes-Betancort, and Dr. A. Santos-Guerra.