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MONTHLY MEETING: Treasures of the Sierra Madres: An Armchair Tour of Mexico’s Greatest Botanical Hit

Giant Dioon Merolae

January 14, 2019. Our first speaker of the new year will be Jeff Chemnick, from Aloes-in-Wonderland garden and nursery in Santa Barbara, California. An authority on Mexican cycads who has published numerous articles on the topic, Jeff also leads botanical and ornithological eco-tours throughout Mexico, particularly in the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.

Aloes-in-Wonderland was founded in 1988 and occupies nearly 4.5 acres in the upper Sycamore Canyon area of Santa Barbara. Jeff lost his home in the Tea Fire in 2008. Fortunately, the drought-tolerant garden he planted years ago has made a remarkable comeback. Despite the nursery's name, its primary focus is cycads, although aloes abound as well. The nursery also sells agaves, palms, cacti, bromeliads, crassulas, dracaenas, beaucarneas, yuccas, pachypodiums, cyphostemmas, fouquierias, furcraeas, alluadias, brachychitons, cussonias, and moringas. While most of the plantings are in ground, the nursery also sells thousands of potted cycads and hundreds of seedlings.

Jeff with Beaucarnea gracilis

A past president of the Santa Barbara Horticulture Society and former chair of the Horticultural Society Annual Plant Sale, Jeff is a research associate at the Ganna Walska Lotusland botanical garden in Santa Barbara, and a member of the IUCN’s Cycad Specialist Group which determines the status of endangered cycads worldwide. Jeff has given numerous presentations on his botanical travels worldwide and teaches the Lotusland docent training course on cycads. Currently he is working on a book on the cycads of Mexico.

Be sure to join us on January 14 to hear Jeff talk about his travels and the plants he loves. The evening starts at 6:00 PM at Congregation Beth Israel. Admission is free for SDHS members and $15 for non-members. Parking is free. For more information, call (619) 296-9215 or visit

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