Biodiversity in Belize
Biological Diversity in Belize
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Checklist of the vascular plants of Belize

Find out more about Zamia and other Cycads in the Cycad Pages.

Montgomery Botanical

2008 C.robusta research report (pdf)

2008 Z.prasina research report (pdf)

New description of Zamia meermanii (pdf)

New description of Zamia decumbens (pdf)

What is Zamia prasina (pdf)

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2008-2009 Cycad Research in Belize

During 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

Michael Calonje managing Zamia data in Tropical Forest Studies Office at Green Hills, Belize

Jan Meerman with Zamia polymorpha

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

Boris Arevalo with Ceratozamia robusta

Zamia prasina, Michael Calonje

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

See the trip report

See new species description of Z. decumbens (pdf)

Rhopalotria Zamia prasina Zamia prasina pollinator (Rhopalotria sp?). True size 4mm.
Jan Meerman, Michael Calonje with Zamia sp.nov.

A new cliff-dwelling species of Zamia was discovered in 1999 and has recently been named Z. meermanii.

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.

New description of Zamia meermanii (pdf)

Michael Calonje and Jan Meerman with the newly described Zamia meermanii.

Back to the native Zamia page


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Last modified:July 26, 2009