St. Petersburg likely to buy Tampa family's rare plant collection

Most of the cycads from a Tampa family would be planted at the Gizella Kopsick Palm Arboretum.
Brad Young, a botanist, and his brothers are selling their late father's more than 300 palms and cycads, shown here in South Tampa. Young family photo
Brad Young, a botanist, and his brothers are selling their late father's more than 300 palms and cycads, shown here in South Tampa.Young family photo
Published January 17 2014
Updated January 18 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — Brad Young grew up in a garden unlike others.

It was large, lush and filled with plants not usually seen in South Tampa back yards, thanks to his father, who collected rare palms and cycads.

The environment inspired Young, 59, to become a botanist. After his father died eight years ago, he continued to nurture the garden. About a year ago, he and his brothers decided it was time to sell the estate. But what of the plants?

At first the family considered selling the collection, which Young said is worth at least $380,000, to private buyers. Then they agreed to sell the plants — more than 300 in all — to the city of St. Petersburg for $300,000.

"I knew I had to do something to protect them," Young said. "Just the fact that it will stay together and be able to be enjoyed by the public means a lot to me."

City Council members will be asked to approve the deal at their meeting this week. The $300,000 figure includes the purchase price for the collection ($125,000), transplant costs ($75,000), hardscape ($60,000), maintenance ($34,000) and other fees. The money will come from the Weeki Wachee Fund, which was created for parks and beautification.

Council members have signaled they like the proposal.

"I think it's a very intriguing idea to be able to have a world-class collection that kind of fits into the emphasis we put on having world-class parks," council member Jim Kennedy said during a workshop last week about the deal.

Residents and visitors will be able to enjoy the Young cycad collection at the Gizella Kopsick Palm Arboretum — a little park along the waterfront at North Shore Drive and 11th Avenue NE filled with different types of plants. The rarest cycads would go to Sunken Gardens.

Young and officials hope the collection will give plant enthusiasts another reason to visit the city and boost ecotourism.

"I could make three times as much by transplanting them myself and selling them one at a time," Young said. "To keep it together … that's so much better."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643. Follow @cornandpotatoes on Twitter.