The History of Lancetilla


The true beginning of Lancetilla came in 1925 when the United Fruit Company founded a scientific research center at Tela, in order to study the diseases of the banana plants and to analyze feasible methods by which one could manage and enhance other tropical products with immense potential value. The first director, Dr. Wilson Popenoe, who is today recognized as the pioneer of tropical horticulture in the area, selected the valley of Lancetilla because of the varying types of terrain and the microclimate diversity. During the first 30 years, the Botanical Garden worked jointly with the Lancetilla research centre to compile over a thousand varieties of plants with economic importance, which were then studied, selected, propagated, improved and distributed. Several million examples of plants and grafts from this centre have been distributed all over Latin America.


Lancetilla has been used as a source for the seed of the rubber tree, African oil palm, rambután, citronela's weed and the well-known lemon tea of Central America. At the moment Lancetilla figures as a seed bank for investigative work inside and outside the country.


In addition to the experimental arboretum and plantations it has in the river basin of the Lancetilla River, to the south of the establishment, 1,200 hectares virgin forest of Natural Reserve, that have been protected and continue being conserved, acting as the water source for the city of Tela. In this forest there is a great diversity of plant species.


While Dr Paul C. Standley was a member of the faculty of the National Museum of the United States, he studied in detail the flora of this forest. He remained in Lancetilla from November of 1927 to March of 1928. In his book "Flora of the Lancetilla Valley, Honduras" he describes his work that in addition, includes the species between Tela and Progreso. Other collectors of plants of this region were: Mr. Percy Wilson of the Botanical Garden of New York in 1903, Elizabeth R. Mitchell in 1926 and Sir W.D. Hottle in 1929. In addition, Misses W. N. Bingham and F. M. Salvoza, students graduated from the University of Harvard, remained during several months in 1929, collecting for the Arnold Arboretum.


Today in the Botanical Garden, studies continue into the flora of the Atlantic coast. In addition there is a herbarium, in which many samples of historical collections of this region still exist.


Also from its beginnings, the Botanical Garden has studied the behavior of species of trees with comercial applications especially for timber. In the arboretum, there are collections of these trees from tropical zones all over the world. In addition, from the 1930s, they began to make hundreds of hectares of plantations primarily comprising of Mahogany and Teak in areas near Tela. Today, what’s left of these plantations - only approximately 100 hectares exist in the Botanical Garden and are used as a source of seeds. A further 200 hectares of plantations are used for a variety of studies for ESNACIFOR.