Thursday, August 16, 2018
News Roundup

My grandfather’s fern: A living legacy

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

But she had to leave behind our family’s most prized possession.

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

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

My grandfather’s fern.

"It won’t 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. It’s 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 aunt’s 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 – and shared their own stories:

Rose bushes dug up from a great aunt’s yard in South Carolina, now flowering in Florida; lambs’ tail from a deceased mother’s house in Cape Cod, tenderly folded into paper towels and brought back to Gulfport; spiky snake plants unearthed from a grandmother’s 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 grandfather’s fern into three balls – each so big two men had to hoist them. One part went to a friend’s 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 aunt’s piece of the staghorn died. But Gray’s 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. "It’s 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 fiancé and her children.

On a sultry summer day, he and S.J. showed up at my sister’s house in Miami with a friend they’d known since high school – 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 it’s doing!"

Family members worried: Would there be enough shade? Enough time to mist it, with my uncle’s 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 couldn’t join us, but after we’d 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 that’s 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.

Comments
Stretch of heat and sunshine to continue in Tampa Bay through weekend

Stretch of heat and sunshine to continue in Tampa Bay through weekend

A ridge of high pressure that has settled in the western Atlantic will provide Tampa Bay with drier, more stable weather for the next few days, according to the National Weather Service.Clear skies and lots of sunshine will characterize the morning w...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Fatal pedestrian crash closes westbound lanes of E Hillsborough Ave.

Fatal pedestrian crash closes westbound lanes of E Hillsborough Ave.

A fatal crash involving a vehicle and pedestrian has closed all westbound lanes of E Hillsborough Ave from N 15th St. to N 13th St., according to the Tampa Police Department.The crash was not a hit and run and everyone involved stayed at the scene an...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Missing child alert issued for endangered Pasco County children

Missing child alert issued for endangered Pasco County children

A Florida Missing Child Alert has been issued for three Dade City children who went missing Wednesday night.They may be in the company of Christopher Christy Sr., 29, and Shannon Adams, 24, according to authorities. The children, who range in age fro...
Updated: 2 hours ago
The Daystarter: Can Bernie Sanders swing the governor’s race?; meet the stand your ground shooter’s legal team; Rays’ bats wake up against Yankees

The Daystarter: Can Bernie Sanders swing the governor’s race?; meet the stand your ground shooter’s legal team; Rays’ bats wake up against Yankees

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Get ready for another overcast, wet and hot day. The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a 40 percent chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service. The highest ch...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Deveron Gibbons’ promise of 20 jobs in jeopardy as development plans languish

Deveron Gibbons’ promise of 20 jobs in jeopardy as development plans languish

ST. PETERSBURG — Former mayoral candidate Deveron Gibbons’ plans to develop two acres across the street from Tangerine Plaza — where two supermarkets failed — could be in trouble. His vision for the property at 2100 18th Ave....
Updated: 2 hours ago
Romano: Con artist or Florida politician? You decide

Romano: Con artist or Florida politician? You decide

Decorum matters, and so the attorney’s language was appropriately measured.In seeking to have a constitutional amendment thrown off the ballot, a motion filed in Leon County used words such as "misleading’’ and "ambiguity’’ and "wordsmithing.’’That’s...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Column: The real numbers from the Rosewood killings and why they matter

Column: The real numbers from the Rosewood killings and why they matter

Florida’s former secret, the Rosewood racial atrocity, has haunted me for 36 years. Back in the mists of 1982 — before email, cellphones or GPS — I was the revealer of that long-lost secret, unveiling it in an investigative exposé f...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Titanic artifact salvager sued for failing to repay $25,000 loan

Titanic artifact salvager sued for failing to repay $25,000 loan

Longtime underwater artifact salvager G. Michael Harris is again in the public eye, but this time not for treasure. Harris, a Belleair resident involved in recovering artifacts from the famous Titanic shipwreck in the early 2000s, is currently being ...
Published: 08/16/18
5 films to consider for the popular Oscar, from ‘Black Panther’ to ‘Paddington 2’

5 films to consider for the popular Oscar, from ‘Black Panther’ to ‘Paddington 2’

All hell broke loose when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a new category last week to honor "outstanding achievement in popular film."The highly criticized move raised far more questions than it answered. When will the categ...
Published: 08/16/18

Girls with guitars and ’tude: Welcome to camp

For one noisy week, girls screamed, banged, strummed, danced and sang. They learned about hip-hop and Tejano music, explored their vulnerabilities and hit the yoga mats. This wasn’t your typical summer camp.Conformity was discouraged, and apologies w...
Published: 08/16/18