Vol. 76 No. 2 (2021)
Articles

The expeditions of the research yacht Utowana and the building of the plant living collections of the oldest botanical garden of Cuba

Rosalina Montes Espín
Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos, Calle Central Num. 136, Pepito Tey, Cienfuegos
Ileana Fernández-Santana
Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos, Calle Central Num. 136, Pepito Tey, Cienfuegos
Amanda Lucía Vitlloch Ramos
Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos, Calle Central Num. 136, Pepito Tey, Cienfuegos
Leosveli Vasallo Rodríguez
Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos, Calle Central Num. 136, Pepito Tey, Cienfuegos
Mario A. Lima Cruz
Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos, Calle Central Num. 136, Pepito Tey, Cienfuegos
Javier Francisco-Ortega
Institute of Environment, Department of Biological Sciences, Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center, Cuban Research Institute, Florida International University, University Park, Miami
Published September 7, 2021
Keywords
  • Greater Antilles,
  • Allison Armour,
  • David Fairchild,
  • Thomas Barbour,
  • Plant Exploration,
  • Germplasm,
  • Tropical Islands
  • ...More
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How to Cite
Montes Espín, R., Fernández-Santana, I., Vitlloch Ramos, A. L., Vasallo Rodríguez, L., Lima Cruz, M. A., & Francisco-Ortega, J. (2021). The expeditions of the research yacht Utowana and the building of the plant living collections of the oldest botanical garden of Cuba. Webbia, 76(2), 143-166. https://doi.org/10.36253/jopt-10929

Abstract

Cienfuegos Botanical Garden is the oldest functioning botanical institution of Cuba. It was established originally as a joint endeavor between sugar magnate Edwin F. Atkins and Harvard University in 1901. Between 1925 and 1934, the research yacht Utowana performed ample plant germplasm collections for the USDA in the New and Old World as well as archeological and zoological surveys in the Neotropics. The botanical expeditions were conducted mostly, under the leadership of David Fairchild. In this contribution we review to what extent Utowana expeditions and collections were instrumental in building the living collections of Cienfuegos Botanical Garden. A total of 278 accessions (comprising 254 species) were introduced into this garden directly or indirectly through these expeditions. Currently 57 of these species (132 individuals) are still part of its living collections. Interestingly, five of the Caribbean expeditions of this research yacht carried plant material between the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden and two other botanic gardens that were operated by US entities, namely the Lancetilla Botanical Garden in Honduras (owned by the United Fruit Company) and the Summit Gardens in Panama City (managed by the Panama Canal governmental agency). Our study also shows that plant material collected during Utowana expeditions was sent from Old World and Caribbean Island botanic gardens to Cienfuegos Botanical Garden. Thomas Barbour, director of this botanical institution between 1927 and 1946 joined four of these plant hunting endeavors. He provided strong support for the growing of the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden living collections with plant material collected during Utowana expeditions.