An Afternoon with Tropical Plants

The student members of Florida International University’s ecology club GLADES enjoyed an afternoon learning how to identify common woody plant families of the Neotropics earlier this month. We were pleased to have Dr. Scott Zona of the Department of Biological Sciences and Curator of the Wertheim Conservatory here at FIU leading the workshop. GLADES members met at the north entrance of the FIU Nature Preserve where Dr. Zona began with a short introduction on tropical plant families.

GLADES members with Dr. Scott Zona

GLADES members with Dr. Scott Zona

Dr. Zona provided for each student a packet that listed each of the 10 plant families students were going to encounter during the workshop and included information such as the number of genera and species in each family, special identification features, leaf type, flower type, fruit type, and a familiar species example. The plant family list included: Arecaceae, Annonaceae, Bignoniaceae, Euphorbeaceae, Fabaceae,Lauraceae,  Moraceae, Myrtaceae,Sapotaceae, and Rubiaceae.

GLADES members during the identification workshop.

GLADES members during the identification workshop.

This workshop was the first of the semester for GLADES. As the founding president of this truly unique student organization, I was moved by both the presence and engagement of the members during the workshop. What students took home from this experience was a new-found skill in plant identification with a complementary botanical vocabulary, and an appreciation for the diversity of plant life found at our university. At one point during the workshop, Dr. Zona quizzed our group on identifying a woody plant to its family. With our new skills and a trusty hand lens, we easily identified it was in the Rubiaceae (opposite leaves and interpetiolary stipules!). All of the amazing photos were taken by our GLADES Webmaster, Ashley Lambert. I look forward with excitement for what the rest of the semester has in store for GLADES. 

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