Magnolia Symposium in Cuba Outlines Research and Conservation Strategies

Scientists and horticulturists from 15 countries traveled to Varadero, Cuba, for the Third International Symposium on the Family Magnoliaceae. Held 29 November – 3 December 2016, the Symposium provided an international forum for 76 participants to exchange the latest information on Magnolia biology and culture. While the large flowers and distinctive foliage of magnolias are widely known, few realize there are 304 Magnolia species split between Asia and the Americas. Found in tropical and temperate areas of these continents, Magnolia species are broadly distributed but are rarely abundant. The IUCN Red List estimates 48% of all species are threatened with extinction and too little is known about another 30%.

Symposium topics including conservation, biodiversity, ecology, nursery propagation, in vitro propagation, cryopreservation, taxonomy and evolution were represented in a total of 20 presentations. In addition to scientific presentations, the four-day meeting included field trips to the National Botanical Garden of Cuba as well as the coast of Matanzas and the mountains of Topes de Collantes to view rare magnolias in their natural habitat.

The Symposium fostered networking and collaboration among participants to advance knowledge and identify major research priorities that will contribute to conservation of magnolias worldwide. The 2016 Symposium built upon the scientific successes of the first two Magnoliaceae symposia held in China in 1998 and 2009 and the International Symposium on Neotropical Magnoliaceae held 2015 in Ecuador.

Institutions organizing the Symposium were the Cuban Society of Botany (represented by Alejandro Palmarola Bejerano, President), “Planta!” PlantLife Conservation Society (Luis González Torres, Director) and Magnolia Society International (Gary Knox, University of Florida, and President of Magnolia Society International).