In Praise of Wildflowers: A historical look at the 1932 Festival for Wild Flowers

Our Gardens and preserve lands are colored by the beautiful rotation of native wildflowers. In 1932, the Gardens’ leadership was recognizing the importance of protecting wildflowers. The Festival for the Wild Flowers was created to celebrate these beautiful plants and on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, the Gardens is once again promoting the importance of native blooming plants.
View the 1932 Festival of Wild Flowers Program

The program notes are especially inspiring for an Earth Day Celebration. We have transcribed the notes below and highlighted the passages with beautiful photos of wildflowers. It is interesting to note the guest speaker from 1932 was famed scientist Dr. Clyde Fisher who was from the American Museum of Natural History and would later go on to create the Hayden Planetarium. Dr. Fisher was also mentored by the great John Burroughs, an American naturalist, and essayist. Learn more about Dr. Clyde Fisher.

The 1932 Program Notes
To most of us the appeal of wild flowers is one of deep sentiment. Some of our greatest artists and patriots have been inspired to an immortal song or heroic deed by the homely chard of a daisy or a sprig of heather. But in many countries there is now developing a truer understanding of not only the beauty, or even the botanic interest of wild flowers, but also of their economic value to each community.

Now that we are awakening to the need of interesting roadsides as well as good roads, many states realize their grave loss in the devastation of beautiful highways whose wild flowers are burnt and uprooted, or their trees and shrubs stripped by the thoughtless, who leave only a barren ugliness to mark their passing. Further, fewer wayside berries mean fewer birds and so poorer crops and gardens, for birds devour hordes of insect pests each year.

One of the most comprehensive laws to preserve native planting was passed by the State of Florida in 1927, and amended in 1931, giving protection to its important wild trees, shrub and plants, and so safeguarding such natural beauty as a recreative pleasure for visitors as our ourselves to enjoy.

In France and Germany also, wayside flowers are legally protected. In Capetown, South Africa, over one hundred species of wild flowers are preserved from indiscriminate picking. In England the Roads Beautifying Association are doing an especially valuable work by influencing the owners of ancient trees or beautiful reaches of hawthorn, blue bells, ect., which border public roads, to add a clause to any sale of such land to protect from private destruction all natural which has become part of the public scenic highway.

So we can better understand the true value of our wild flowers, the Sanctuary has invited Dr. Clyde Fisher of the American Museum of Natural History to give us two lectures on this subject on Friday, March 11th, at the Auditorium of the Lake Wales High School, which is available through the courtesy of Colonel C.E. Crosland. The first lecture at 10 A.M. is for the pupils of the Lake Wales Schools, though the seats will be reserved for adults. The second lecture will be given at 8 P.M. to which all friends of the Sanctuary are most welcome. The lectures will be illustrated by motion pictures and beautifully colored lantern slides.

Dr. Fisher is the Curator of Visual Instruction at the America Museum of Natural History, and holds the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Botany at Johns Hopkins University. Besides his talks on the native flora of America, Dr. Fisher will give us some account of his woodland studies with the great naturalist, John Burroughs, whose words we read at the North Entrance of the Sanctuary: “I come here it find myself. It is so easy to get lost in the world.”

To complement the Festival of Wild Flowers, Anton Brees will give two special programs on the Sanctuary Bells. The selections have been chosen from compositions in which some of the great musicians express their love for a wild flower, and its inspiration in their unfoldment of life through music.

This blog post was written by Erica Smith, Director of Marketing with collaboration from Jaime Fogel, Library & Archival Collections Manager.