Lancetilla Botanical Garden

In 1925 Dr. Wilson Popenoe created the Lancetilla Botanical Garden unique in Honduras and one of the largest in all of Latin America.
Lancetilla Botanical Garden

The Lancetilla Botanical Garden is the only botanical garden in Honduras and one of the largest in all of Latin America. It has an extension of 1680 hectares, of which 1261 ha are from a Nature reserve, 350 are from plantations and 70 ha correspond to an Arboretum.

The Botanical Garden is managed by the National University of Forest Sciences (Unacifor). The botanical garden is part of the BGCI and presents works for the International Agenda for Conservation in Botanical Gardens. Its international recognition code as a botanical institution, as well as its herbarium acronym is LANCE .


The year 1925 was the year of Lancetilla’s birth, when Dr. Wilson Popenoe chose, on behalf of the United Fruit Company, the Lancetilla Valley as the most suitable in terms of different soil types and a variety of microclimates, to install a Research base, for the study of banana diseases and to analyze the most viable methods to cultivate other tropical fruit plants.

Dr. Wilson Popenoe was the first director of both the Botanical Garden and the attached Lancetilla Experimental Station . Under his leadership, more than a thousand varieties of plants of economic importance were gathered, which were analyzed, selected, propagated, improved and distributed. Several million copies, mostly buds and grafts, have left this station for all of tropical America.

In its early years, Lancetilla played a great role in taking advantage of the genetic resources of the African Oil Palm ( Elaeis guineensis ). Sending vegetative material from Central America to Colombia. So it can be said that the large oil palm plantations in the new world have their origin in Lancetilla .

The same can be said about crops in tropical America of Asian fruits such as Lychee (Litchi chinensis Sonn.) And Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), which also started from Lancetilla . The largest plantation in America of Mangosteen ( Garcinia mangostana ), is located in Lancetilla .

A large number of rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis) were also introduced from Brazil, with the intention of searching for specimens resistant to fungal infections. These rubber tree plantations spread throughout the whole of Central America and played a fundamental role as suppliers of rubber in abundance to the USA during the Second World War.

Another of the key plantations was the quinine tree ( Cinchona ledgeriana ), which supplies the remedy to cure Malaria disease. Especially in the 1940s and 1950s when its cultivation spread throughout Central America (especially in Guatemala and Honduras). Without a doubt due to the armed conflicts that were taking place in Southeast Asia.


The Lancetilla Botanical Garden and Research Center is located on the coast of the Caribbean Sea, in northern Honduras, 340 km from Tegucigalpa, 90 km from San Pedro Sula and 7 km southeast of the city of Tela.

It is divided into three different zones: The Reserve, the Arboretum and the Plantations. The surface of the entire Botanical Garden is approximately 1680 hectares, located at a height above sea level between 20 and 800 m.


Lancetilla has also been the center of research and improvement of crops and production of citronella grasses and the well-known lemon tea in Central America. It is currently listed as a germplasm bank for research inside and outside the country.

This place is the cradle of the main fruit crops on which the economy of the north of the country rests: African palm, rambutan or mangosteen, to mention some of the crops in the sector, while others are booming, such as the case of the licha as such.

The park also contains medicinal species and a series of singularities of the country, such as a collection of orchids, including Rhyncholaelia digbyana, a species that is the national flower that is currently being cultivated. In addition, there are 16 species of bamboo that give way to majestic scenery

It is part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor and has around 2,500 tropical species, between native and exotic. Of the latter, it has plants from various continents.

To date they have identified more than 345 types of birds, 77 species of mammals, 41 of fish, 45 kinds of reptiles, 26 kinds of snakes and 21 kinds of amphibians.

The Arboretum

One of the most visited areas of the garden by tourists, at least 50,000 annually, is that of the Wilson Popenoe Arboretum, named after the first director of the garden. This includes 78 hectares of plants from Africa, Asia, Oceania and America.

This houses a collection of more than 1,200 species of tropical plants, available for scientific and educational research, and has natural and veneered trails.

The botanical garden also has an orchid garden with more than 91 species, among popular and beautiful plants, including the national flower of Honduras.

The Herbarium

The Lancetilla Herbarium is currently a local reference herbarium. It is at this moment with approx. 2000 species and 4200 samples, mostly material from the Lancetilla reserve and from other areas on the Atlantic coast.

The Tela Railway Company initially established a Herbarium in Lancetilla and soon began to make massive collections of Flora near Lancetilla and between San Pedro and Tela. Especially Standley was working in this years and published in the 30s the Flora of the Lancetilla Valley. There are also works on the exploration of Flora at this time by researchers from Harvard University, USA. Duplicates of these collections are currently in the Herbarium of the Escuela Agricula Panamericana Zamorano.

After the 1970s collections were made by Donald Hazelet and by students from national universities. In recent years, duplicates from other Botanical Gardens such as Missouri or Fairchild also came in relation to collections that members of these institutions made on the Atlantic coast. However, it is necessary to remember that many of the duplicates of the collections made in relation to Lancetilla were not returned to the herbarium.


The following Projects or Programs at this time support and are related to the Lancetilla Botanical Garden

  • Strengthening of the Lancetilla Botanical Garden and Research Center, SETCO with the support of the Honduras – Canada Environment Management Fund, CIDA. Ochna spec.
  • I-To-I: England Voluntary Service
  • Integrated Expert Program, CIM-GTZ, Germany
  • Institutional cooperation at national and international level:
  • Honduran Tourism Institute, National Sustainable Tourism Program to strengthen the Lancetilla Botanical Garden
  • Mamuca, La Masica, Honduras: Production of plants for reforestation
  • Honduras Broadleaved Forest Management Network (REMBLAH): Specific support agreements
  • Honduran Ecological Network for Sustainable Development (REHDES): Support and implementation of a biological monitoring program in the Caribbean biological corridor.
  • Rio Platano Biosphere, Honduras: Point cooperations
  • Fairshild Botanical Garden, Florida: Support Struts
  • Montgomery Botanical Center, Florida: Cycadaceen Conservation
  • Herrenhäuser Gärten, Hannover, Germany: Technical consulting, special Orchids
  • IUCN, Regional Office, San José Costa Rica: Technical support in the development of the Strategic Plan for the Lancetilla Botanical Garden.
  • Belize Botanical Garden, Knowledge and staff exchange.