1976 Biennial – Melbourne, Florida

Map Unavailable

Date(s) - 06/19/1976 - 06/25/1976
All Day


Biennial Meeting, June 19-22, 1976
There can hardly be a more suitable setting for a meeting of the Palm Society than the campus of Florida Institute of Technology at Melbourne, Florida.  Host Dr. Jerome P. Keuper, President of F.I.T. and former Palm Society president, has made the 125-acre campus a veritable palm garden, using these plants almost exclusively for the landscaping.  The innumerable large specimens of hardier species with smaller and more tender ones interspersed, met the eye on every side, being used as specimen plants, massed along walls and walks, or silhouetted against buildings.  The effect is overwhelming to a palm lover and it still seems incredible that this major palm collection was started just nine years ago.  It is impossible to do justice to such a setting in this report of the Biennial Meeting.  Those of you who have the April 1975 issue of Principes can look at it again to refresh your memory of what those of us who attended the meeting were privileged to experience.

Upon arriving at F.I.T. on Saturday, June 19, we checked into the commodious and convenient dormitories.  For dinner we gathered in a large upstairs room over the cafeteria.  The entire north side of the room is of glass and provided a fascinating spectacle as a typical mid-summer thunder squall lashed torrents of rain on the palm tree tops in our field of vision.

Next morning, Dr. Oscar Rodriguez, new horticulturist at F.I.T., led groups of members along the Dent Smith Trail where in the shaded dampness the myriad smaller palms are thriving.  So many unexpected Palm Society members showed up at the luncheon without reservations that the planned food finally ran out, though adequate substitutions were hastily produced.

There was a turnout of over 100 at the auditorium for the official meeting in the afternoon.  After the business meeting (see minutes of the meeting on page 167 of the October issue of this important session) we heard Dr. Fred Essig tell us about the palms, especially the Ptychospermas he had studied while in New Guinea some years ago.  Paul Drummond detailed the state of lethal yellowing disease, and noted that the new coconut hybrids may hold the key to the replanting of these palms in South Florida, which has lost so much of its tropical appearance due to the death of approximately 500,000 coconuts and even more Veitchia merrillii.  Next we were transported to the state of Georgia by Mr. William Manley who showed the beauty of hardy palms on his property.  We saw how well many of the plants had recovered after he had to transplant them when moving to a new home.  Dr. Robert Read gave us the highlights of his treatise on the genus Thrinax, preparing those who would be going to Jamaica on what to expect to see there.

At the delicious banquet that evening, outgoing President U.A. Young was presented a plaque in recognition of his service as president.  Incoming President Myron Kimnach greeted all and thanked those responsible for the most enjoyable and competently planned meetings and accommodations.  First, of course, was host Jerry Keuper who had made it all possible.  Aiding him and handling all the innumerable complex details was Dr. Joseph Weil, who was almost overwhelmed by the many members who decided at the very last moment that they would come, reservation or no.

Then the room grew dark and quiet as Dr. H.E. Moore, Jr., showed us slides and told us about the many areas where man’s impact is changing the face of the world, destroying what it has taken nature millions of years to produce.  It is sobering to realize how much has already been lost to provide living space for the steadily increasing numbers of mankind.  There is still so much to learn about the interrelationships of plants in their native environment, and so little time to do it.  We left the banquet hall with many thoughts about our beautiful palms, happy to have shared so much with others whose love of these plants had brought them to this place.
Teddie Buhler

The following account by Dave Besst of Maitland, Florida, starts with Monday, June 21, “a day to relax.  A small group drove over to Disney World, others up the beach to visit Third Century, the Bicentennial Exhibition at the Kennedy Space Center with its excellent preview of what technology holds for America’s third century.  Others visited Joy Michael’s and Bill Bidlingmayer’s gardens noted for their extensive collections of the more tropical palms typical of the southern part of Florida.  And, last but not least, a few attended open house with watermelon and cool drinks at the beachfront home of Dr. and Mrs. Jerome Keuper.

When the evening cookout scheduled for F.I.T.’s houseboat on the river was threatened by a thunderstorm, the resourceful caterers promptly moved to the campus cafeteria, with hamburgers and hot dogs cooked over a large grill on the cafeteria porch.  Not to let the evening die so early, the Keupers invited all to their home to finish the beer and watch for sea turtles, which at this season bury their eggs in the beach sand directly in front of the property.  Feeling somewhat like Dr. Archie Carr, the famous sea turtle expert from the University of Florida at Gainesville, we walked with lanterns and flashlights, hoping to come upon a mother turtle making her commitment to another generation of green sea turtles.  No such luck, so we enjoyed the view, food, beer, and good company of our palm friends until it was time to head for bed.

Tuesday morning the bus tour members and those traveling in their own cars rallied at the F.I.T. Jensen Beach campus for a tour of the grounds and expanding palm collection.  Adjournment to Frances Langford’s Outrigger Resort Hotel for an outstanding Polynesian lunch was in a setting that could not have been more to a palm lover’s liking.  We were seated in a waterfront dining room overlooking the Indian River with a view framed in coconut palms.

From here we went to the nearby estate of Mr. Louis Dommerich, who, unfortunately, was out of town but had arranged for Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Lewis to conduct the group.  Perhaps the owner might have had stories to tell about the many mature palms in his extensive collection.  As it was, no one could decide which, was the most striking specimen, there were so many unusually large, rare palms.  Penetration of the dreaded lethal yellowing was much in evidence.  Mr. Dommerich is trying to stave off the attack and most of his large stand of coconuts carry the stains typical of the terramycin injections.

After having to crane our necks admiring the tops of tall palms it was a pleasant change to visit the nearby home and palm collection of Mr. Rawson Lizars.  His young and vigorously growing palms consisted of many choice plants, some grouped, others standing alone to show off their princely forms.  Most of them had been grown from seed obtained from Lucita Wait and De Hull, our faithful trustees of the Seed Bank – a testimony to Mr. Lizars’ patience and tender care.

Coral Gables was the end of the day’s trip where cool showers and a dip in the Howard Johnson pool were a welcome refreshment.  Afterwards cocktails, palm talk and visiting were followed by dinner at the nearby Waterway Inn.  Open air, canal-side dining, gentle breezes and strolling musicians pleasantly ended another fine day of the Biennial.”

Wednesday a tour of Fairchild garden was followed by a quick bite at the Snack Bar.  Then a visit to Paul Drummond’s large and fascinating collection gave those present a chance to hear Dr. Moore identify his Chamaedorea falcata with sickle-shaped seeds.  Paul’s Pigafetta filaris was the object of envy and wonder with its 12 feet of glossy green trunk.  From here the tour continued to the magnificent garden of Nat DeLeon whose collection of bromeliads, staghorns and orchids enhanced the beautiful palms.  He has lost two Arenga engleri to lethal yellowing, but one of his licualas, unidentified but perhaps L. peltata, had several beautiful spikes of cherry-red fruit which he generously distributed to all who wished them.

Thursday morning a heavy downpour kept all captive in the bus for at least 30 minutes at the Jennings Estate.  Finally it let up enough for hardy souls to venture out but drizzle and insects soon drove them back and the bus continued to Chapman Field, the U.S. Plant Introduction Garden and Research Station with its old palms.  However, the same rain and insects plagued the group here so the bus shortly continued to the Parrot Jungle where the cafeteria was a welcome haven with its views of the colorful parrots.  Host Nat DeLeon gave a conducted tour, showing the many palms hidden here and there, among them a tall slender unidentified Chamaedorea with fragrant blooms, the huge Raphia, and an unidentified Pholidocarpus from Brunei.  Dick Douglas of San Francisco, who had formerly lived in Miami, was a helpful guide for the Miami tours, while Dr. John Popenoe of Fairchild Garden showed members around the Jennings Estate.
Teddie Buhler

The Post Convention Trips

Following the Biennial Meeting held at Melbourne, Florida on June 19-25, 1976, 36 persons who had attended the Meeting went to Jamaica on a post-convention trip.  Those going on the short trip (Group A) were: Mr. & Mrs. T.C. Buhler, Mr. & Mrs. R.G. Douglas, Mr. Richard Douglas, Mr. Paul Drummond, Mr. & Mrs. Edward Simmons, Mrs. Ruth Shatz, and Mrs. Lucita Wait.

Those taking the longer trip (Group B) were: Dr. & Mrs. Byrone Besse, Mr. David Besst, Mr. Dale Boggy, Mrs. Cara Calvetto, Mr. Craften Clift, Mrs. Gertrude Cole, Miss Mary Collins, Mr. & Mrs. A.J. Constantine, Mr. & Mrs. A.J. Constantine Jr., Mr. & Mrs. John Jiretz, Mr. & Mrs. Norman Moody, Dr. Robert W. Read, Mr. and Mrs. Kermit Rossten, Mr. & Mrs. J.M. Schneider, Mr. & Mrs. Gordon S. Smith, Dr. Donald Stalker, Mr. Jaime White, and Dr. & Mrs. U.A. Young.

A further account of these post trips can be seen in:
Principes, Vol. 21, No. 1: Pages 32-37 (January, 1977).