Nat DeLeon Celebration Dinner

Transcript of Karl Green's Speech

On this honorable occasion, I am proud and grateful to be allowed to present the oral presentation on behalf of the Bromeliad Society of South Florida. As the president of BSSF, I have been involved with Nat DeLeon for a period of years. And, all good years.

I do not seek to reiterate the history of this person. You already received a copy of the BromeliAdvisory which included Moyna Prince's wonderful article depicting Nat's life history as well as Alan Herndon's great article about the feats of Nat DeLeon in the bromeliad world. I humbly cannot add to those impressive works and instead wish to focus on another theme.

Everyone knows Nat has received numerous awards, and so I will not hash on that point. What I wish to do is to tell you about the alphabet soup of Nat's bromeliad history which you may or may not know about. Numerous acronyms have become a part of Nat, and quite frankly, numerous acronyms are the creation of Nat DeLeon. Behind BSI, BSSF, BSBC, BIC, FCBS and many other acronyms, Nat DeLeon played an instrumental role. I shall explain.

You all know of the BSI - Bromeliad Society International. When it started, it was primarily an Australian/California organization, managed, handled and led by people of Australia and the American west coast. Then Nat became involved. And the organization's perspective grew. Florida became another venue in which bromeliad cultivation blossomed. Species in Florida would differ - as they still do - from California cultivars or hybrids because of different interests, weather differences or both. Nat gave the BSI a new perspective reflective of the bromeliad world you and I see today. And in 2000, Nat was named an honorary trustee - a lifetime appointment.

Emanating from the BSI is the WBC - World Bromeliad Conference. In 2008, the 18th Annual Show was held. In 1980, the WBC was in Miami to which Nat was instrumental. Amazingly, Florida hosted this event when few Floridians were BSI members.

You all know the BSSF - Bromeliad Society of South Florida. What you may or may not know is that Nat was a founder- maybe the founder. He was the first president of the BSSF. He has been a president on three occasions. And when the BSSF grew, he helped arrange the organization of BSBC - Bromeliad Society of Broward County. Hence, the overload of the Broward and Dade affiliations could be better served with the two organizations which lead many of the causes for the FCBS.

You have heard of FCBS - Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies. And you may remember that the FCBS is instrumental in delivering research in fighting the evil weevil. When the evil weevil was first becoming a concern, Nat DeLeon obtained a vast amount of tillandsia utriculata and shipped the same to the laboratories of the FCBS to perform their scientific studies.

You have heard of BIC - Bromeliad Identification Center. This Marie Selby Botanical Gardens organization is increasingly important and better establishes Florida as being an instrumental agent for bromeliad growers worldwide. In 1983, funding for BIC was originated mainly from an auction to which Nat DeLeon held a major role. Nat was at the forefront of this organization's history.

These accomplishments are more pronounced when contrasted to the time of the respective events. Nat has been at the doorstep of many bromeliad accomplishments - the evil weevil study, the World Bromeliad Conference, the creation of the BSSF and BSBC, the inception of the Bromeliad Identification Center and more. Nat DeLeon is much more than the man we monthly see delivering stupendously colored plants for show and tell - where he explains and describes the leaf structure, reveals how the lolly-pop colors of the inflorescence evolved, and divulges the rarely known history of the innumerable hybrids to which he has been involved during his decades of bromeliad research. Nat is - in many respects - the Johnny Appleseed of the bromeliad world, especially for South Florida.

Nat DeLeon's Parrot Jungle was the quintessential South Florida paradise for decades. Tourists and locals would visit for the birds, but more often left with lasting impressions of the undercover plants he adorned on the large lot. A zone 10 phenomenon, Parrot Jungle was the place where Tarzan's jungle blended delicately with brilliant tropical grace. Parrot "Jungle" was perhaps a misnomer for this attraction - "Parrot Paradise" would have better described the environment of 57th and 110th street.

Legend has been told that bromeliads were rare until Nat DeLeon and Parrot Jungle introduced this area to the same. I believe that the average landscape of Miami would have a fraction of the bromeliads we see today had Nat DeLeon not resided here. Nat DeLeon - the pioneer in the bromeliad world who excavated the roads for BIC, BSI, FCBS and more - is as much the father to South Florida bromeliad landscaping as he is the father to this organization.

The unselfish energies he has expended to this organization cannot be measured. Annually, he delivered tables of plants to the annual show. His appearances, according to Robert Meyer, culminated with no less than 80 plants in any given year. To give you a perspective of the volume of this entry - that number represents about 25% of the entire show at the World Bromeliad Conference!

This event is indeed a rare event in this organization. But it is an event to which the organization would be remiss if it did not feast and celebrate this icon to the organization and bromeliad world.

At this time, I raise my glass and ask that all join me in making a solemn and heartfelt toast to the father of the BSSF - Nat DeLeon.