A South Florida native, Al developed an interest in bromeliads as a young man. He interned at Mulford and Racine Foster’s "Bromel-La", where he acquired much of his expertise about early bromeliad selections and hybrids. Al’s enthusiasm for learning about his plants gave him a great fund of information about their pedigrees and idiosyncrasies. Always willing to share his knowledge, a casual comment on a plant might lead him to a précis on the hybridizer or collector, when it was introduced and any problems growing it here in Florida.
After completing his degree in Horticulture from UF, Al eventually opened his own mail-order nursery, New World Bromeliads. He also became an accredited bromeliad judge and was very involved in the formation of the Jacksonville and Gainesville Bromeliad societies. He was also an ardent supporter of the FCBS project to find a biological control for the “Evil Weevil”, Metamasius callizona. Plantsman, instigator and character, Al will certainly be missed.
Al Muzzell, 69, long time bromeliad grower, seller and speaker at many of our bromeliad societies, passed away Sunday, December 11, 2011. He died at the Gainesville VA Hospital after suffering from cancer and other complications.
Al was a founding member of the Gainesville Bromeliad Society and served as its president many times. He also served as chairman of the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies and was instrumental during the early years of the Evil Weevil research in aiding Dr. Howard Frank in locating weevils and their pupa from the Central American forests to be used in the University of Florida research labs.
Dr. Frank reminisced about the early days of the evil weevil research and how Al drove him to the quarterly FCBS meetings so they could spread the word about the invasive weevil. They even traveled to Panama in the early 1990s to chase the weevil. "Al's enthusiasm was boundless, as much for the bromeliads we encountered there as for weevils," Dr. Frank remembered.
Ed and Nancy Hall, who knew Al for about 30 years, remembered spending hours talking bromeliads. When they moved to Macon, Georgia, Al stored their collection and returned it to them in their new greenhouse. "It was always interesting to visit Al's greenhouses," Ed said. "There were always interesting plants to see. During our last visit in spring of 2011, Al and a friend were creating new Dykia hybrids."
Al's interment was conducted by the Veteran's Administration at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida, on December l4, 2011.
Editor's note: Thank you to Tom Wolf, Howard Frank and Ed and Nancy Hall for their assistance in writing this memorial.
GBS has also arranged for a memorial marker and additional plants to join an existing collection at Kanapaha Gardens, also in Gainesville. Several years ago Al guided GBS in providing bromeliads and planting the original bed there, from which a taxonomy collection began.
Al was instrumental in the formation of the Jacksonville/Gainesville Bromeliad Societies and was president of the Gainesville Bromeliad Society for many years. He eagerly shared his vast knowledge in many ways throughout the Florida Council Affiliates and his generosity and unique presence are missed.