December 1, 2007
In May 2005, an ornamental plant exploration trip was conducted in remnant forests of Puerto Rico. The main focus of this collection trip was Tabebuia haemantha, a rare Puerto Rican endemic that has many features of interest to horticulture industry. It is a small-statured tree, evergreen, red-flowered, and is largely unknown in cultivation. Also of interest and worth looking for were improved forms of Tabebuia heterophylla, the common pink Tabebuia. This species, widely produced and planted in southern Florida, has suffered from a great deal of inbreeding, as local seed sources are continuously used for the production. The species is also currently negatively impacted by a new thrips species . It was hypothesized that new germplasm from offshore populations of T. heterophylla might show variable resistance to this pest. Also collected were seeds and cuttings of other genera (including Coccoloba, Poitea, Simarouba, Hillia, Turnera, and Polygala) for evaluation as potentially new tropical and subtropical ornamentals in southern Florida. A number of these endemic Puerto Rican plants are threatened or endangered in their natural habitats.