Saturday, November 17, 2018
News Roundup

My grandfather’s fern: A living legacy

MIAMI - When my sister moved from Miami to Vermont last summer, she took our grandmotherís rocking chair and another grandmotherís crocheted doilies.

But she had to leave behind our familyís most prized possession.

For 50 years, through four generations, it has been passed around Florida, lived with all my momís siblings, survived home sales and hurricanes.

Itís not a coin collection or fancy china or heirloom jewels. We have something we all treasure even more. And refuse to let die:

My grandfatherís fern.

"It wonít survive the winter," said my sister. "Who can take it?"

The staghorn is huge, at least 300 pounds. It swung from a wall in her back yard, cradled in a hammock of thick chains. Itís antler-like leaves cupped to the sun.

My grandfather Arthur had brought it home one day, in the late 1960s. My Uncle S.J. remembers being in middle school, watching his dad nail a 6-inch square of wood onto a palm tree, with a spindly fern clinging tight.

"It had like three leaves on it," said S.J. Camfield, now 59. "It was weird, he was so excited."

My grandfather died when S.J. and his brother, Gray, were teenagers. Eventually, my grandmother had to sell their pink house in Coral Gables. She left behind the aloe, bromeliads and orchids.

But she insisted my uncles untie the fern, which was now as big as a medicine ball, and take it to my auntís house in Coral Springs.

"The only thing of your father I can keep alive," she said.


Each time I told friends about the fern, they nodded knowingly Ė and shared their own stories:

Rose bushes dug up from a great auntís yard in South Carolina, now flowering in Florida; lambsí tail from a deceased motherís house in Cape Cod, tenderly folded into paper towels and brought back to Gulfport; spiky snake plants unearthed from a grandmotherís house in Ohio, smuggled across state lines and re-planted in St. Petersburg.

All these memories, still growing, giving, long after the gardeners had gone.


When my aunt moved from Coral Springs to Atlanta in the early 1980s, she split my grandfatherís fern into three balls Ė each so big two men had to hoist them. One part went to a friendís house nearby; another to Atlanta with my aunt; and the third to my youngest uncle, Gray, who had just bought his first house in Jupiter.

They lost touch with the friend. Atlanta was too cold; my auntís piece of the staghorn died. But Grayís flourished. In the thick leaves, mocking birds built a nest.

When my uncle moved from Jupiter to Melbourne in the late 1990s, the fern went with him. But when he moved into an oceanfront condo, there was too much salt spray, no trees big enough to hold it. So he drafted two friends and drove it to Miami, where my sister took custody.

My niece fed the fern bananas. It grew even more.

"I hate to leave it behind," my sister said. "Itís been a part of our family ever since I can remember."

Gray stepped up to take the staghorn again, this time to his new home in Vero Beach, which he shares with his fiancť and her children.

On a sultry summer day, he and S.J. showed up at my sisterís house in Miami with a friend theyíd known since high school Ė who remembered the fern! The three men sweated for almost an hour and emerged, tangled in chains, pushing the plant in a wheelbarrow to a rented pick-up.

"Take good care of it!" I called. "Let us know how itís doing!"

Family members worried: Would there be enough shade? Enough time to mist it, with my uncleís new family to take care of? Was the plant too old, or fragile, to travel?

My sister and her family flew back to Florida for Thanksgiving. Our uncles couldnít join us, but after weíd finished the key lime pie, S.J. texted a photo.

Shiny green leaves surrounded a huge, light brown ball, swaying from a palm tree. And below, these words: The Staghorn Lives!

Do you have a family plant thatís been passed down through generations? Send us a photo. Tell us your story. Help keep that history alive.

Contact Lane DeGregory at [email protected] Follow @LaneDeGregory.

The end of the Bucsí Dirk Koetter-Jameis Winston partnership

The end of the Bucsí Dirk Koetter-Jameis Winston partnership

It's hard to imagine the head coach and the quarterback both back with the Bucs in 2019.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Buccaneers-Giants: How Tampa Bay can lose if it wins

Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Buccaneers-Giants: How Tampa Bay can lose if it wins

The Bucs are in a race, just not the one you hoped they would be in.
Updated: 3 hours ago
Football playoffs: Jefferson 34, Lakewood 23

Football playoffs: Jefferson 34, Lakewood 23

ST. PETERSBURG — Jefferson continues to prove that seedings don't matter in Class 5A. A week after upsetting top seed Hardee, the No. 8Dragons took down No. 4 seed Lakewood 34-23 in the region semifinals.Niko Duffey scored two first-half rushin...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Football playoffs: Bloomingdale 21, Palmetto 14

Football playoffs: Bloomingdale 21, Palmetto 14

VALRICO — In the offseason, Bloomingdale coach Max Warner told his players the goal was to play on Thanksgiving weekend.That left a lot of perplexed looks from the Bulls."They didn't know what that meant," Warner said.Bloomingdale had neve...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Football playoffs: Plant 39, Viera 18

Football playoffs: Plant 39, Viera 18

VIERA — Once again, the Plant Panthers proved they're the kind of team that can take a little momentum … and run you over with it.That was the case in Friday night's Class 7A, Region 2 semifinal as the Panthers rallied from an 18-10 halft...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Football playoffs: Seffner Christian 27, Carrollwood Day 16

Football playoffs: Seffner Christian 27, Carrollwood Day 16

DOVER – Isaiah Knowles connected with Christian Helms on a pair on 10-yard touchdown tosses as Seffner Christian defeated Carrollwood Day 27-16 on Friday, giving the Crusaders their first playoff win in school history. The win, a rematch o...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Sunday’s letters: Guardian ad litem advocates for neglected children

Sunday’s letters to the editor
Published: 11/17/18

Football playoffs: Nature Coast 17, Baker County 16

BROOKSVILLE — Nature Coast, an easy winner most of its past 10 games, really never had the need to attempt a field goal this season. Nor did the Sharks need to throw much, despite quarterback Fabian "2 Fabe" Burnett possessing a talented arm.Bu...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Football playoffs: Admiral Farragut 40, Cambridge Christian 14

ST. PETERSBURG — Admiral Farragut's Courtney Eubanks came out for his first home playoff game ready to play.Early in the first quarter, Eubanks had an interception on defense and followed that play with a touchdown on offense as the Blue Jacket...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Football playoffs: Citra North Marion 40, Zephyrhills 21

ZEPHYRHILLS — Zephyrhills' perfect season is imperfect now that it is over. A 40-21 loss to Citra North Marion in Friday night's Class 5A region semifinal ended the Bulldogs' season at 11-1. They were ousted in the second round for a second str...
Updated: 8 hours ago