Amphibians on Display

Frogs of Panama

Atlanta Botanical Garden has a longstanding commitment to Panamanian frogs from the habitat represented in this exhibit. The Garden safeguarded populations of Triprion spinosus and Agalychnis lemur for 14 years and is working with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in hopes of eventually reestablishing wild populations lost to the deadly “Chytrid” fungus.  

Crowned tree frogs, Triprion spinosus, are named for spiny protrusions built into their skulls. Mothers raise their tadpoles in water-filled tree holes (“phytotelmata”). Smithsonian staff are now breeding offspring from the Garden’s frogs and testing individuals for resistance to the Chtrid fungus to determine if some may be better candidates for release. There are not yet high enough numbers for release trials, but reestablishing a wild population remains the ultimate goal. 

In 2004 the Garden was part of a team that raced to evacuate frogs from the wilds of Panama before they could be infected with the deadly Chytrid fungus that was rapidly spreading, decimating frog populations wherever it arrived. The evacuated frogs were housed in a special biosecure lab behind the Garden, and as feared some of those species became “extirpated” or locally extinct-in-the-wild. The Garden safeguarded their genetics by breeding them and keeping track of different bloodlines in hopes that they could one day return. Fourteen years later, in 2018, the Garden partnered with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) to bring representatives of each bloodline of both Triprion spinosus and Agalychnis lemur to a new facility in Panama, where STRI continues to breed greater numbers of these bloodlines with the longterm goal of reestablishing wild populations in Panama.

This exhibit also features evergreen toads (Incilius coniferus). All toads are frogs but not all frogs are toads, just like all finches are birds and all cacti are succulents. Toads tend to tolerate dry conditions better than other frogs and walk on the ground instead of hopping, climbing, or swimming. However, Evergreen toads are surprisingly good climbers, often found five feet or more above the ground. This gives them access to hiding places and tasty bugs that are too high for ground-dwelling toads but too low for most tree frogs. While evergreen toads tend to be more green in other parts of their range, most Panamanian individuals are darker brown. Look for them hiding burrowed into the ground or under large leaves like the Piper permatum in the back left corner.

Among many other plants, the Garden's Panama display features seven species of Anthurium. Many tropical plants like Philodendrons and Anthuriums can be tricky as houseplants due to high humidity requirements. This display features automated mist systems that provide very high humidity, as well as fans circulating air to prevent rot, which can also plague houseplants. Look for some prized species like Anthurium wendlingeri, as well as more common houseplants like Anthurium crystallinum.


Header photo by Brian Gratwicke

Crowned tree frog

(Triprion spinosus) photo by Brad Wilson

Evergreen Toad

(Incilius coniferus) photo by Chelsea Thomas