JARDEN BOTANICO DE LANCETILLA
By: Alanna McFarland
Welcome to Jarden Botanico de Lancetilla. William Popenoe established Lancetilla in 1925 as a banana research plot for the United Fruit Company. The land, on which Lancetilla resides, five miles south of Tela, Honduras, was originally owned by the Atlantic Fruit Company. After years of fierce competition with the United Fruit Company, the Atlantic lost the battle and went out of business. The United Fruit Company received as concession two railroads, the Tela Railroad Company and the Truxillo Railroad Company, and one hundred and sixty-two thousand hectares of land. Lancetilla was a piece of this concession. Although Lancetilla began as a research center for bananas, it did not stay that way for long. Due to Popenoe's endless inquisitiveness, the research plot expanded. By the time that William Popenoe left Lancetilla in 1941, the garden consisted of seven hundred and sixty-four varieties of plants, six hundred and thirty-six species, three hundred and ninety-two genera, and one hundred and five families of plant life existing on a total of seventy-eight hectares. The United Fruit Company continued to control and manage the land until 1974, when the garden was handed over to the Honduran Government. The Honduran Government allowed the land to lie idle; causing the loss of many of the precious plants that had been cultivated by the United Fruit Company. After several years under the control of the Government, the garden was handed over to ESNACIFOR, the National School of Forest Sciences.
In the years since the land and control was handed over to ESNACIFOR, Lancetilla has managed to become mostly self-sufficient and very productive as a research center and business. Lancetilla receives twelve percent of its budget from the Honduran Government. Under ESNACIFOR management, Lancetilla has been able to regain eighty percent of the plant life lost while under the control of the Government. The self-sufficiency comes from the harvest of the fruits produced and a very restricted timber harvest. ESNACIFOR provides Lancetilla with a wide array of research students from around the world. Lancetilla is a major research center for all Latin America and much of the tropical world.
Now that you have a brief history of Jarden Botanico de Lancetilla, let me help you with a first hand view. You enter Lancetilla Botanical Garden through the front gate and are greeted by armed guards. After you gain entrance, through a small fee, to the Garden, you encounter a long dirt road with a wild tangle of trees and plant life thriving along the roadside. After traveling down this road, which seems never to end, you come to a Y in the road. The right road ends in a rustic dormitory and the left road passes the Visitor's Center and continues on into the garden. We chose the road to the right and enter the dormitory to unload our vast amounts of luggage. Given free time be began to prowl, taking the path least taken, heading into the wild. Small streams intercept our path as we head upward into the lush scenery unlike anything we have every seen. Due to a lack of time, we head back to meet up with the Director of Jarden Botanico de Lancetilla, Das. Circo Navarro, for a guided tour of the cultivated garden. Listening to Das. Navarro, you can tell that he truly loves his work and "his" garden. He knows the history of every plant we encounter along the path and often has an interesting story to impart. Surrounding the area, around the garden itself, is the Lancetilla Biological Reserve. We are told that within the Reserve lives a very diverse bird and animal population. At the right time of day, we are told they venture down into the garden to feed. We decide to see if this is true or if we are being told a good yarn. We rise at 4:15 the next morning to check it out. It is kind of scary to be up and about that early in a world you're not familiar with and with a language you don't speak. But we venture on through the quiet darkness of the morning. An unpromising quiet is settled over the area, where are the sounds and sights we were promised? We venture further down an unknown path encountering a stream and our first bit of wildlife for the morning, a frog. As we turn back, not willing to cross the stream, we come across our first bird as it dive-bombs us as we have ventured to close to its nest. Continuing on towards the dormitory, we hear a sound that stops us in our tracks, the Howler Monkeys are calling us. The sound of their calls makes up for the loss of sleep. After a moment to ponder, we head again back towards the dorms with a story to tell over breakfast and a lifetime full of memories and visions of a beautiful landscape. It is wonderful to know that all of this beauty has such a great purpose; studying and understanding the tropical forestlands to preserve them for today and for generations to come.
Bucheli, Marcelo. United Fruit Company. Online
Stanford University. Internet. 17 April 2000. Available.
Humphrey, Chris. Honduras Handbook. California: Moon Publications,