Lancetilla Botanical Gardens

Located only a few kilometers from the Caribbean beach town of Tela is Lancetilla Botancial Gardens, the second largest tropical botanical gardens in the world. The gardens where established in 1926 as an experimental site for testing different banana types by the United Fruit Company. In the course of time plants from all over the world were introduced. In 1974 the gardens were donated to the Honduran government. Due to the large range of plant species, the gardens are home to a great number of animals. 365 bird species have been counted in the gardens, among them parrots, toucans, tanagers, orioles and motmots. Guided tours can be organized or maps purchased at the gardens visitor center.


Location

Located only a few kilometers from the Caribbean beach town of Tela is Lancetilla Botancial Gardens, one of the largest botanical gardens in the world and one of the finest bird-watching sites in Central America.


 

Size and Foundation

The gardens where established in 1926 as an experimental site by William Popenoe of United Fruit Company. The park was set up as a research station for testing different banana types. This experimentation lead to the introduction and trial of plants from all over the world. The first African palms (one of Honduras most profitable agricultural products) were first introduced here. Much work has also been done over the years with coffee, cacao, rubber and mangoes. In 1974 the gardens were donated to the Honduran government. Today the gardens remain an active research station with the National School for Science and Forestry. In total, the park covers and area of 1,681 hectares. The greatest part is covered by a nature reserve.


 

Natural environment and Importance

Lancetilla is divided into three main-sections: the Arboretum, a biotic reserve and an experimental plants area. The Arboretum is a garden dedicated primarily to the study of trees and other woody plants. It houses more than 1,500 species, primarily of fruit trees and lumbers. There are large plantations of mahogany and teak, which are used as a tree nursery, and an extensive collection of fruit trees originating from Asia, such as purple mangosteen, pili nut, cacao, pulasan, lychee, rambutan, mango, nutmeg, grumichama and jabuticaba. The collection of different banana species is one of the largest worldwide. The park houses also collections of orchids and bamboos, as well as collections of oil palms and royal palms.

Lancetilla hit its peak in the 1940s, when hundreds of thousands of plants were produced and distributed all over Latin America. The collections of plants, today you would call it genetic library, grew constantly and became one of the most important collections of tropical useful plants during those times. Due to civil commotions in the 1960s the United Fruit Company backed out of the research centre, which therefore lost importance.

The hills surrounding the Botanical Garden itself are home to the Lancetilla Biological Reserve. This reserve is home to primary and secondary tropical forest. Tropical rainforests are highly endangered habitats all over the world, due to deforestation and uncontrolled development. Tropical rainforests have the highest biodiversity of all habitats on earth, being home to millions of different and many still undiscovered species. The genetic pool is one of the most important natural resources presented on earth, winning more value every day due to the advancing biotechnology. Scientists have found on one hectare of rainforest some 200 different tree and shrub species. On one big rainforest tree biologists counted 54 species of ants, more than in the whole of England. One of the secrets of the biodiversity of tropical rainforests is the appearance of a vertical organization of species. Up to five different levels of plants, including the forest canopy, are found. Each level is formed by specific species, and is populated by different animals. This biological reserve makes Lancetilla the perfect spot and maybe the best, for experiencing flora and fauna in Honduras.


 

Wildlife

Due to the large range of plant species here and in the surrounding reserve the gardens are a haven for many wildlife species. 365 bird species have been counted in the gardens. Parrots, toucans, trogons, tanagers, orioles and motmots are all found and seen regularly. A lot of people are surprised with just how many birds can be seen and are present in Lancetilla. Many mammals, reptiles and insects are also found in the gardens and the surrounding forest reserve. Again the numbers are very high due to the huge range of plant species.


 

Activities

Maps can be purchased at the gardens visitorís centre. Plants are colour-coded, which will help you identify them. However, there are also guided tours available. These are a great way to spot trees like the mangosteen and quinine, learn interesting factoids about the plants, and get to try lots of tropical fruits.


 

Accommodation / Visiting times

The visitorís centre is home to a cafeteria and a basic hostel, which offers accommodation for up to 30 persons and is good for those interested in early-morning bird watching or just wanting to stay in this beautiful area.


 

Private tours