From the Rainforests of New Caledonia
to the Nursery of the National Tropical Botanical Garden

Lawai Kauai Hawaii

Bill Laidlaw , Lucia Laidlaw and David LorenceAmborella Plant

Amborella trichopodais considered to be one of the most primitive flowering plants surviving today (references). A shrub whose wood lacks the vessels characteristic of most flowering plants, it is a relic restricted to the under story in wet forests of upland New Caledonia. Amborella has separate male and female individuals, and the female plants in the wild produce large numbers of single-seeded red fruit (more).

Seeds brought back by National Tropical Botanical Garden botanists Dave Lorence and Tim Flynn in 1998 germinated readily and by late 2000 over a dozen plants had been flowering regularly for several years. About this time Amborella became a strong focus of interest among botanists; they had reason to believe that it should be ranked among the ancestors of modern flowering plants . Our Amborella plants were in demand from research groups investigating its genes and ancient flower morphology . It seemed that any self-respecting collection like ours should be able to contribute more than just blossoms and pollen, it should be able to contribute fruit and, viable seeds and new plants.

In late December 2000, amidst a lot of speculation as to the method and agent of pollination we took on the first task, generating seeds from our collection of flowering Amborella.

male flower
The male flowers have stamens with swollen anther sacs which release a puff of fine yellow pollen when disturbed in the early morning.

Male flower [more ]

female flower
The female flowers open to reveal a cluster of carpels, each with a small stigma which rapidly deteriorates and turns brown even in our nursery mist room.

Female Flower [more ]

Amborella fruit
Being of a naive and practical bent we simply transported mature male flowers to a receptive female and, in due course, fruit began to develop.

Fruit [more ]

Amborella seeds
By April 1, 2001 a number of fruit had developed and as they matured, were collected, cleaned, and the dried seeds stored.

Seeds [more ]


The next challenge: could we get seedlings? Eight seeds were prepared and planted in November 2001. After four months one seedling appeared, our first, bred-and-born-in-captivity Amborella! Within a week a true leaf had appeared, followed shortly by the three leaf stage. Success seemed assured.

Sadly, a slug ate into the seedling and it died at the four-leaf stage. But the honor of our collection was intact: there were fruit, seeds and seedlings!

Seedlings [more ]
End of Document.

Dr. Bill Laidlaw is a Research Associate at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Lawai, Kauai, Hawaii, USA and is also Professor Emeritus in the Chemistry Department at the University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Contact: e-mail:

Lucia Laidlaw is a volunteer at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Lawai, Kauai, Hawaii, USA

Dr..David Lorence holds the B. Evans Chair of Tropical Botany
National Tropical Botanical Garden , 3530 Papalina Road
Kalaheo, Kauai, HI 96741  USA email:

Tim Flynn, is custodian and manager of  the Herbarium at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens.

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