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El Charco Del Ingenio Botanical Garden Newsletter

May, 2008 - Volume III, No. 5

OUR MISSION: To protect and preserve our natural heritage and help build an environmental culture while developing a Botanical Garden dedicated to Mexican flora and providing an oasis of peace and tranquility for all. Please tell your friends and prospective members/supporters how to access the newsletter and help broaden the base of support for the Botanical Garden.

Earth Day Cleanup

Saturday, April 26th, was the third Earth Day clean up around Parque Landeta and El Charco.  This activity was organized by the Botanical Garden, FAI (Save the Children Mexico) and PEASMA (environmental education organization) to celebrate Earth Day (April 22).  As in the past years, there was a large turnout of school children, neighbors, residents and members of El Charco, with the support of the municipal government.  This successful community project shows the high level of interest in green areas and a consciousness of our environmental problems as well as how civil society can resolve them.  Congratulations to all who participated!

Earth Day Cleanup

Earth Day Cleanup


Martin Smith, our curator of plants, returned to his native England for personal reasons in April after years of intense and fruitful work in Mexico.  Martin has been associated with the Garden since 1999, first as a volunteer and later as curator of the cacti collection.  This collection was severely damaged by the frost of 1997, but Martin was able to save the collection and recuperate its enormous botanical value.  Martin has been assisted in this work by two of El Charco’s employees, Marta Garcia and Lorena Gutierrez, who over the years of apprenticeship with Martin have acquired an extensive knowledge about the plants, their propagation in the nursery and planting in the Garden.

In addition to looking after the collection, Martin also designed and planted the areas inside and outside the Conservatory, around the Reception area, and the Agave garden, among others.  He is the author of several articles about our collection in international scientific publications and has represented us in reunions and conferences about cacti – his great passion. 

The personnel and Board of El Charco wish to extend their deepest gratitude to Martin for all he has done over these years and hope that someday, he may return to Mexico and El Charco. We are currently conducting a search for a curator.


Martin Smith

Lorena y Marta

Now the botanical collection in El Charco – the second most important in Mexico - is ready for a new period of scientific research.  So we welcome Rolando Barcenas, who comes to do some DNA studies with specimens from our collection. Rolando graduated from UNAM (the Nacional University), obtaining in England his Doctorate in molecular biology. He received a scholarship from the English Darwin Initiative for these studies on Mexican cacti. He is a professor and researcher at the University of Queretaro and lives in San Miguel de Allende. Welcome to El Charco, Rolando!



During its 17 years of existence, the Botanical Garden has built few structures inside its territory: the reception/store, bathrooms, juice bar, office/library, the Conservatory and nurseries, and the dome (la bóveda) near the Plaza of Four Winds. It has always been the policy of the Garden’s Board to build “as little as possible” to minimize the visual and environmental impact on this natural site – we have enough construction already just outside our zone.

Nevertheless, the increase in visitors and in our programs have made us think about infrastructure and the need for an auditorium that can serve as a multi-use area with the space and equipment to receive groups.  We decided that instead of taking more land and incurring large costs, we would remodel the dome, which has had limited use since its construction nine years ago. It has served as a place for the vigils for the Fiesta de Santa Cruz in July, for meetings and ceremonies and as shade for our visitors.

The project of converting the dome to a multi-use space with a capacity of more than 60 people, consists of adding walls and windows, adding an area with a small kitchen and storage room, all with water, electricity and some equipment as well as a surrounding garden.  This place will be available for meetings, lectures, workshops, temporary exhibitions, ceremonies and audio-visual presentations. 


The work has begun and we hope to be able to complete it by July, with the help of San Miguel architect Anja Fauske. Funding for this project has come from some individual donations but we would appreciate additional contributions from members and friends of the Garden.

croquis por Anja Fauske, Arquitecta


In April, Mario Mendoza, Director of the Botanical Garden, and Martin Smith, curator, represented El Charco del Ingenio at an international meeting held in the National Botanical Garden in Cuba.  During working sessions with researchers from the Agricultural University of Havana certain agreements were reached:

  • Continue with the propagation project to cultivate cacti and other plants from our collection that are difficult species to reproduce by conventional methods,

  • Technical support for El Charco, use of the University of Havana’s laboratory to establish the protocol of propagation of these species.

Two prominent cactologists from the Botanical Garden of UNAM (Mexico City), Dr. Leia Scheinvar and Dr. Salvador Arias, were also present at these meetings and agreed to assist in establishing a Nopal Garden in El Charco.  This includes donating samples from the UNAM collection.



During the months of May and June (depending on when the rains start), we will be doing some important work in the Presa de Las Colonias in both El Charco and Parque Landeta.

creacion de islas  

Machinery will take sediment from the bed to the sides of the Presa with the double intention of removing the silt and building riverbanks for flora and wildlife, creating if possible two new islands. This season will probably be the last opportunity to do this work in the wetlands, since once the new treatment plant in Parque Landeta is operational (planned for this year), there will be a greater level of water year round in the presa, which would impede using heavy machinery.

The costs for this project will be covered to a large extent by a grant from Save The Laja Foundation in 2007.

drawings by Dante Escalante, Historias de un Jardín, Ed. Santillana

Wild & Wonderful: Nature Up Close in the Botanical Garden ‘El Charco del Ingenio’
was presented at Posada Corazon on April 16th and again on April 22nd at Villa Jacaranda at an event sponsored by Audubon and was very well received.  It is now available at the store at the Garden and in several other bookstores in town. Text is by Walter Meagher and photography by Wayne Colony, Foreward by E.O. Wilson.  300pesos.

wild and wonderful

We have had wonderful feedback on the new store. Have you been yet? New items arrive regularly so be sure to visit frequently. For the months of April, May and June we are offering 10% off selected items for members.



And while you’re at the Garden, don’t miss the juice bar/café which is also offering new items such as the delicious bagels.



After maintaining the same rate for membership for the last 10 years, the Board has decided to increase the fee by 100 pesos.  Therefore, starting July 1st membership will cost 600 pesos.  While not a big increase for ten years, the additional monies will help El Charco with ever-raising costs.  Membership fees are an important source of income for the Garden.  Remember the advantages of membership are:

  • Unlimited access for the cardholder and two more people,
  • Discounts at concerts and other events in the Garden and in the store,
  • Subscription to this newsletter,
  • The option of participating as a volunteer in the Garden’s work,
  • And the satisfaction of knowing you are supporting a worthwhile project

If you renew before July, it will be at the old tariff of 500 pesos.  You may even want to renew for 2 years at this rate!  If you are not in town and would like to renew your membership, download (MSWord or PDF), print and complete the membership form and mail it with your check.

Thank you to our Volunteers

We would like to thank Kathy Palmer for having spent hours reorganizing our photos and who is continuing to put our office papers in order.  This is invaluable work and we appreciate her talents in this area and her dedication to the project. Gracias!!

  Kathy Palmer

Monday, May 19th at sunset

luna llena


We invite everyone to this open celebration that has been taking place for many years during the full moon cycle at the Four Winds Plaza in the Botanical Garden. It’s worth arriving a little early to admire the setting of the sun and the appearance of the moon over the mountains. We recommend bringing a coat and a musical instrument if you wish. Admission is 30 pesos, free for members.

Friday, May 16th, 8pm
Sunday, May 18th at 10am

This relaxing steam bath is a ritual of healing and purification and is available every month for both men and women. Bring bathing suits and towels. It takes place in the ruins of an old hacienda, under the moonlight, across the dam from El Charco’s reception area. The mixture of heat, humidity and scented plants and herbs is a purifying experience for mind and spirit. Its benefits are many: it activates blood circulation, increases natural body defenses, eliminates odors, relaxes muscles, helps keep the nervous system in good shape, stimulates breathing and is excellent for weight loss. 250 pesos, space is limited so please call for reservations or information 154 88 38, 154 4715, cell 01 443 10 3 3019 or in El Charco’s main office.


temazcal exterior

temazcal interior


We have a one page user survey at the garden for your feedback on our various services but for this newsletter, we have just one question to ask you: Would you recommend becoming a member of El Charco to your family and friends?

We thank you in advance for taking a few seconds to send this simple yes/no answer to   Feel free to add comments if you want.

You can make a difference - Please volunteer

And you can make a difference with your contribution - volunteer or donate. We appreciate your support!! Please contact Naomi at

E-mail any comments or questions to the Editor at




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