Enid Offolter, who owns and operates NSE Tropicals in plantation, Fl, specializes on collecting, growing and propagating some of the most unique and rare plant specimens in the world. As the hurricane raged over Florida, we talked on the phone about the immense loss of a precious plant collection, amassed over 15 years. Many of which are species that are effectively extinct in the wild like Philodendron spiritus sancti and others are species that are in cultivation only because of the efforts of private collectors.
There have been thousands of social media posts about the many pets that have been rescued, and as much as we must work to save our furry friends, we cannot forget that these rare plants are important too.
Enid has been a dear friend for a few years now and has served as an excellent mentor, teaching me all I know about the importance of preserving rare plants in collections. She has not only imparted knowledge and enthusiasm but has also shared more cuttings and plants than I can count. She has invested a lifetime worth of effort into her living wall that stretches the length of her greenhouse as well as into her several shade houses. On top of it all she has been a major supplier of rare and beautiful plants like Anthuriums, Philodendrons, Monsteras, bromeliads and orchids to thousands of customers and plant enthusiasts around the world. She is a one woman powerhouse who manages to run a successful business, raise her son and keep alive thousands and thousands rare plants!
As Irma approached, she managed to single handedly put every one of her plant specimens indoors and secure every specimen plant that wasn't tied down. As Irma jumped back and forth from coast to coast, she worked feverishly to protect the precious plants that have been in her care for so many years.
Despite her best efforts, many plants were lost and the damage to her property was extensive. Two of her special "cool growing shade houses" got destroyed, which left all the rare high-altitude plants exposed to the oppressive Miami heat. She also had the roof ripped off her main greenhouse leaving thousands of shade grown understory plants sitting in full sun to be burned up. On top of all this, many of her oldest and most beautiful plants were reduced to, what she called, 'Cream Spinach' as they were tossed around the hurricane.
In addition to the devastating loss of rare plant specimens, there is a substantial amount of work needed to clean up house, restore infrastructure to the greenhouses, rebuild mist houses that were destroyed, replace lost inventory and survive while her business gets back to its former glory.
The desire to ask for resources to protect what many people consider 'houseplants' may seem selfish to some. But for the many collectors I have met, it is a way of life and will drive most of them, myself included to face a hurricane head on if it means securing our collections. The plants housed in private collections like this are not simply the work of one person, they often represent lifetimes worth of work from departed collectors and botanical gardens. Many species don't have taxonomic classification and some represent the only individuals in existence.
Enid's generosity has ensured that many endangered plants will survive into the future in private collections. She has been a wonderful friend to me and to countless others and I hope we can give back to her and help her get back to supplying us all with the best and rarest plants out there! Please help me ensure that this business is able to stand on its own again.
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