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


From my office directly across Mowry Road from the Wilmot Botanical Gardens I am able to admire the beauty of the azaleas that are in full bloom as I write my director’s message. If you are not pleased with your azaleas this spring, it could be a problem with the soil pH. Azaleas, like camellias, prefer an acidic soil. Checking the pH may be a worthwhile exercise.

On the morning of March 6th, 2024 Dr. Bart Schutzman, Mr. Steve Pritchett and I along with UF Grounds personnel participated in the planting of a six-foot Hippocratic tree (Platanus orientalis). It was grown by Dr. Schutzman from a cutting taken from the Hippocratic tree that was planted originally on our medical campus on June 14, 1969. The latter tree has shown signs of deterioration in the past several years to the point there was concern for its possible demise. The new tree was planted directly north of the original tree and will insure that a Hippocratic tree is always present at this site.

Recently, two cuttings grown this past year from the original UF Hippocratic tree were packed and shipped via FedEx to two more medical schools in the southeast including Florida Atlantic University and Emory University. This brings the total shared with other schools to 10 trees. The distribution will continue through this spring. In addition, several additional cuttings have been harvested from the original UF tree to continue this program.

Fig. 1

The annual Hippocratic award ceremony that recognizes the outstanding clinical faculty member identified by the senior medical school class will take place on April 25th, 2024 at the Hippocratic Garden in the Wilmot Botanical Gardens. We invite you to attend.

I am pleased to report that the brick paver walkway project initiated in 2023 was completed in February of this year. Now all pathways within the Wilmot Botanical Gardens are hard-surfaced, thus enhancing access to the gardens for all of our visitors. (Fig. 1)

We are now in the midst of our annual spring plant sale. The online pre-sale component was launched on February 22nd and, thusfar, has exceeded all expectations. An expanded offering of plants coupled with more aggressive marketing probably accounts for the increase in sales.

Past research by our team revealed that Royal James “Roy” Wilmot for whom the Wilmot Botanical Gardens was created in the early 1950’s had never been honored with a named camellia. It was felt that this oversight was inappropriate in light of the many contributions Wilmot made to the camellia community including his conduct of extensive research to improve the classification of camellias and his service as the first secretary and yearbook editor of the American Camellia Society. A subsequent discussion with Mark Crawford, the owner of Loch Laurel Nursery in Valdosta, Georgia, led to his donation of a new cultivar to be named for Wilmot to correct this oversight. On February 2nd, 2024 we received notification that the cultivar provided by Mr. Crawford was granted an Honorary/Memorial Certification by the American Camellia Society. We thank Mark Crawford for making this new cultivar available and for submitting the required paperwork to gain subsequent approval of the certification.

Fig. 2

Framed copies of the certificate and the cover letter can be seen in one of our display cases in the Conference Center at Wilmot Botanical Gardens. The camellia is located in the Gordy Camellia Garden for visitors to enjoy. (Fig. 2)

            We hope to see you at the spring plant sale on April 5th and 6th!