From the Director’s Desk: Thoughts of a Weed Puller

Fig. 1

Labor Day is now behind us and at the gardens that means we must begin in earnest to prepare for our annual fall plant sale. This year the sale will take place on Friday, November 4th and Saturday, November 5th. Our online pre-sale offerings will begin on September 30th and come to a close on Wednesday, October 26th. In addition to an extensive inventory of camellias, including several new varieties, and an expanded offering of azaleas, you will find many new and exciting additions to our fall plant list for your consideration, all of which are grown locally.

In the June issue of our newsletter there was a special article written by Ms. Caroline Crist, a graduating senior at UF and sustainability intern at the gardens. In her contribution, she described the history of the original plane tree (Platanus orientalis) located on the Greek Isle of Kos, presumably the tree under which Hippocrates, the first teacher of modern medicine taught his medical students. In 1969 the UF College of Medicine obtained cuttings taken from that tree, one of which was planted and grown successfully in front of what is now the North Tower of UF Health/Shands Hospital. In February of this year several cuttings were taken from that tree and were grown successfully by Dr. Bart Schutzman, a faculty member in the Department of Environmental Horticulture. I have included a photograph taken recently of Dr. Schutzman standing beside one of the thirteen cuttings, all of which are now over five feet tall (see figure 1).  We are sharing many of these plants with our colleagues at other medical schools in the southeast including, to date, the University of Alabama in Birmingham and Florida State University in Tallahassee. We hope other medical schools in the region will also be interested in securing one of the cuttings derived from our Hippocratic tree, a direct descendant of the original Hippocratic tree located on the Greek Isle of Kos.

It is with sadness that I must report the demise of the large laurel oak tree located in the southeast corner of our gardens (see figure 2). Its age is estimated at 75 to 80 years suggesting the tree was present for several years before the gardens were created in the early 1950’s. On September 7th, UF Grounds personnel removed the dead tree which became a safety hazard at the gardens (see figures 3 & 4).

Fig. 4
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Progress continues on the development of the B.J and Eve Wilder Therapeutic Horticulture Garden at the Wilmot Botanical Gardens with the selection of our landscape architect. The contract was awarded to Marquis Latimer and Halback from St. Augustine, Florida. We look forward to working with their team to design an outdoor teaching garden that is both unique and functional. Looking ahead, we anticipate beginning actual construction in the fall of 2023 with completion in the spring of 2024.

We hope to see many of you at the fall plant sale!

C. Craig Tisher, M.D.
Director, Wilmot Botanical Gardens, College of Medicine