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The Sancti Spiritus Botanic Garden in Cuba

Volume 2 Number 7 - December 1996
Anon.

This new garden is situated in the Sancti Spiritus Province of Cuba, 1.5 km from the provincial capital city of Sancti Spiritus, a city that was founded in 1514. Its area includes 54 ha of low-lying land with alluvial soil and gabro soil on higher ground which reaches a maximum height of 90 m above sea-level.

The Sancti Spiritus Botanic Garden (JBSS) opened to the public in July 1996. Different areas of the Garden will open in successive stages. In the first stage, the public will be able to see collections of ornamental plants, medicinal plants and part of the Gallery Forest. In the second stage (1998), the Palmetum will open and plants of economic significance will be on view. In the third stage (2000), the public will be able see a display of the flora of the Canary Islands and the semi-decidous forest display area.

Planning has recently started on the Herbarium, which will contain more than 1,000 specimens, mainly from the Province of Sancti Spiritus.

The main activities of the new botanic garden will be in ex situ conservation, active participation in in situ conservation and environmental education.

The ex situ conservation activities have already started with a three-year programme of work (the SPASS Project) on 92 plant species of the Sancti Spiritus Province with IUCN Threatened Categories: 31 of these are Endangered, 35 are Rare, 23 are Indeterminate and 3 are Vulnerable. Notable amongst these is the only remaining live specimen of the palm, Megalopanax rex. The project staff have located natural habitats for more than half of them, and already have 10 of them growing in the Garden. These initial successes include the location for the first time in 40 years of the palm Copernicia x vespertilionum and studies of the natural regeneration of Magnolia cubensis subsp. acunae and Podocarpus angustifolia.

In situ research studies have been carried out in the El Naranjal Protected Area in the hills surrounding Banao Town, and in the vulnerable habitats of endemic threatened species that are not located in protected areas. We have also started to carry out studies on the reproduction and phenology of these species.

The Garden has an Environmental Education Program that includes the different school systems, and specifically, the a special school, located only 400 m away from the garden. We also plan to develop different activities with children, grandparents and interested amateurs.

This Garden is supported by the Provincial Delegation of Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. The initial staff of the Garden are Ing. Carlos Santana (Director), Ing. Celio E. Moya (Technical Sub-director, Palmetum, Herbarium, Threatened plants), Ing. Maritza Baguet (Environmental Education, Ornamental plants), Ing. Carlo Yera (Economic and Medicinal plants), Ing. Riselda Vera (Plant reproduction, Gallery and Semi-deciduous forest), Lic. Eldis B‚cquer (Associate Curator).=