For Immediate Release

Distributed January 2001

A Growing Legacy

Every year the glorious colors of a Floridian summer landscape and millions of dollars to the horticulture industry may be traced back nearly a century to one man: Dr. Henry Nehrling. Leading scientists and environmentalists of the day consulted with the keenly observant botanist about his work during their visits to his gardens. Nehrling's guests included the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, nature writer John Burroughs, horticulturist Liberty Hyde Bailey, pioneer naturalist Charles Torrey Simpson, botanist David Fairchild, and famed inventor Thomas Edison. During his work for the Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction to the U.S. Bureau of Plant Industry, Nehrling introduced over 300 new and beneficial plants to the United States including the colorful and immensely popular caladium. Nehrling established two of Florida's earliest botanical gardens which remain to this day: one in Gotha just outside Orlando and one in Naples.

In addition to the commercial benefits, Nehrling was an early conservationist. In 1904, he wrote, "It is high time to protect and preserve what is still left in Florida." Dr. David Fairchild, the veteran plant explorer associated with Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Coral Gables, wrote of Nehrling, "He was always a naturalist at heart . . . a great plantsman of the type so rare that one can hope to meet only a few, even in a long life of travel." His plant experiments numbered in the thousands. Nehrling established thousands of different plants, trees, shrubs and vines growing in his gardens, but his passion was caladiums, palms, and bamboos. The caladiums of which he planted several hundred thousand at a time were the showcase of his Gotha garden with rows stretched down in long lines towards the lake in a stunning two thousand different varieties. And although Nehrling received some recognition in his lifetime including the Meyer Medal for service in the introduction of plants to the United States, his far reaching work is continuing to receive even more attention into the present time including the "Plant Protection Award of Eminence" and "Honor Roll of Eminence" recently awarded by the Florida Department of Agriculture.

After his passing in 1929, David Fairchild reflected, "The wildlife is passing. Man is destroying it. Dr. Nehrling loved it and taught thousands to follow his lead." Indeed, Nehrling's journals and extensive writings, now mostly kept at Rollins College in Florida, refer to the thousands of guests who were drawn to the beauty of his gardens each year and to hear his message. Even today his Naples garden, now known as Caribbean Gardens, stands as one of the largest attractions in the area carrying on that mission of conservation. His Gotha garden is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Nehrling's great grandson, Richard Nehrling, is striving to have it permanently preserved through Orange County and the state of Florida. And thanks to the editing work of the Smithsonian Institute's Dr. Read, a new generation of gardeners will soon be able to benefit from Nehrling's meticulous study in a reprinted text from one of the almost forgotten legends of Florida's botanical history.

Caribbean Gardens 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road Naples Florida 34102 ZooLine: 941.262.5409

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