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October 8/ 2003
- Press Releases

Scientists discover three new plant species found only in Honduras

• Scientific Tourism Project discovers Cicadáceas

A U.S. scientific expedition was recently invited by the Honduran Ministry and Institute of Tourism to visit the departments of Olancho, Yoro, Atlántida and Cortes in search of samples of the rare cicadácea palm. The team found three separate species of the plant, which is currently in danger of extinction. All three are new to world science and endemic to Honduras.

The exploratory expedition was held from July 9 to August 7 under the direction of the Montgomery Botanical Center of Miami, Florida. The MBC is a botanical garden specializing in the study and conservation of cicadáceas.

The scientific team included technicians from the National Autonomous University of Honduras’ National Herb Archive, representatives from the Department of Wildlife and Protected Areas of the Honduran National Forestry Corporation (COHDEFOR), and representatives from the Honduran Ministry and Institute of Tourism, who provided logistical support as part of its effort to attract scientific tourism to Honduras.

Honduras is of special interest to the MBC because it is believed to be home to even more species of cicadácea. The Center is also interested in studying the way rural communities use these plants.

Dr. Mark Bonta of Delta State University documented the cultural history surrounding the Dioone mejia species, known in Olancho and Yoro as Teocinte. The plant resembles other palm types, but produces a cone whose seeds are used by locals to make tortillas, tamales and a beverage called atol.

Not only did the expedition discover three new species, members also collected samples from a variety of different plants in order to catalog official descriptions and assign each new species a scientific name.

The group also worked to inform the organizations that manage protected areas like Pico Bonito National Park, the Lancetilla Biological Reserve and the El Merendon Reserve about the existence of cicadáceas and the importance of protecting them.

Expeditions like this one show that Honduras is a country with a great deal of natural wealth just waiting to be discovered.


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