On Saturday 28th of May, Didier Roguet, Matthieu Grillet and Fred Stauffer organized guided visits on the “Doum palm world” at the Conservatory and Botanic Garden of Geneva. Those visits were framed by the Night of the Museums, an activity fostered by the Department of Culture of the City of Geneva. We organized our visit in three chapters: science and exploration (Fred Stauffer), ethnobotany and economic botany (Didier Roguet) and germination and planting (Matthieu Grillet). All in all, we spent a great time with curious visitors that discovered our project and enjoyed our explanations on the fascinating “Doum palm world”. Here some pictures depicting several moments of our four visits (All photos were taken by D. Roguet and M. Grillet).

Our visit starts explaining the morphologic and taxonomic diversity of the palm genus Hyphaene (8 spp.). The original 3rd volume of the Historia Naturalis Palmarum (Martius, 1838) was one of the most spectacular items displayed.

Conservation is an important issue for some species in Hyphaene. Here we explain the role of palm wine tapping in populations of Hyphaene thebaica in Djibouti.

The critical importance of Hyphaene palms for local inhabitants in Africa is explained by Didier Roguet.  People was amazed to learn about the multi-purpose uses attributed to several species, ranging from house construction and handcraft material, to food, palm wine and medicines. Hyphaene palms are fundamental for rural economy in most African countries.

At least 40 different objects made of Hyphaene were displayed (some of them hanging). In particular interesting the display of Zulu basketry, which is extremely important from the economic and cultural perspectives. Didier also explained the database that was constructed in order to provide full information (text, images) related to each object collected in the five countries visited in the frame of our project.

Matthieu Grillet hosted several visits in the nursery of the greenhouses, where most palms coming from wild populations in Africa are planted. People were amazed to see this behind-the-scenes part of the project, in which we test germination of several Hyphaene species.

After visiting the greenhouses Matthieu guided all visitors to the tropical greenhouse. In this place people were able to see the large diversity of palms cultivated in our collection (about 106 species in total). The role of botanical gardens in conservation of rare species was addressed several times.

End of the visit, surrounding the small pond of the tropical Greenhouse.

Night visit to the Tropical Greenhouse of the Botancal Garden of Geneva

Tropical Greenhouses by night.

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