August and September of 2008, Michael Calonje from
Montgomery Botanical Center
(MBC) in Miami, Florida led an expedition to Belize
with the aim of making taxonomic sense of the Zamia
species occurring here. Ultimately, the research led
to the description of two new Zamia species.
Equally important was to make an assessment of the
conservation status of the individual species.
The team was formed by Michael Calonje (MBC Cycad Biologist), Dr. Miguel Angel Perez-Farrera, (Herbario Eizi Matuda
Escuela de Biologia,
Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas,
Mexico), M. Patrick Griffith,
(MBC Executive Director), Geoff Hoese,
Austin, Texas, USA. Boris Arevalo(Belize Tropical Forest Studies, Belize) Jan Meerman (Belize Tropical Forest Studies, Belize) and Valentino Tzub,
Toledo District, Belize
Base station for the expedition were the Belize Tropical Forest Studies facilities at Green Hills Butterfly Ranch and Botanical Collections.
Michael Calonje managing Zamia data in Tropical Forest Studies Office at Green Hills, Belize
Jan Meerman with
a large Zamia prasina with wide leaflets
in savanna near Gales Point, Belize District.
One focus of the expedition was the
unraveling of the Zamia prasina
enigma. This species is common and widespread in Belize
but taxonomically poorly defined, until recently it
was better known as Z. polymorpha (download
technical paper). In broadleaf forest habitats
it tends to be scarce while in open, savanna habitats
it can be very common. The broadleaf forest plants
tend to be large leaved with wide leaflets, while
many savanna populations have small leaves with very
narrow leaflets. However this ecological segregation
is not complete. Some savanna populations are of the
wide leaflet variety and "mixed" populations
occur, irrespective of sunlight availability.
During the expedition, morphometric measurements were taken from a large number of specimens in a variety of habitat. But this is a species that will require much more research.
A second focus was to confirm the status of the Ceratozamia species in Belize. Several populations in the Cayo and Toledo district were visited and abundant morphometric measurements were taken, confirming the identity as Ceratozamia robusta.
The species occurs very localized, but then sometimes in dense colonies. See the trip report
Boris Arevalo with a Ceratozamia robusta that the discovered
Michael Calonje and Patrick Griffith performing measurements on Zamia prasina plants
The newly describe
Zamia decumbens is considered
a Belize endemic that is considered as critically
endangered in the IUCN system. The research team encountered
plants on 7 different localities. As in C. robusta,
this plant has a tendency to grow in colonies and
the densest colonies were found in two remote sinkholes
in the karst landscape of Southern Belize. The team
collected extensive demographic, morphometric and
ecological data on these populations. New collaborative
research will be forthcoming, and this information
will be used for updating conservation assessments.
As part of the ecological assessment pollinators of all species were collected. It is assumed that many Cycad species have evolved to be pollinated by species specific insects, usually small weevils. Knowledge about these pollinators has important conservation implications
the trip report
new species description of Z. decumbens (pdf)
|Zamia prasina pollinator (Rhopalotria sp?). True size 4mm.
A new cliff-dwelling
species of Zamia was discovered
in 1999 and has recently been named Z.
The species appears to be endemic
to Belize and intensive searches over the past 10
years have established that it occurs only in a small
area of Central Belize where is can be relatively
common on hard to reach limestone cliffs.
During the 2008 expedition, for the
first time, herbarium specimens were collected and
extensive demographic, morphometric and ecological
data was collected. These data will assist in the
scientific description of the species and in the preparation
of a conservation assessment.
description of Zamia meermanii (pdf)
and Jan Meerman with the newly described Zamia
Back to the native Zamia page
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