Nehrling, Henry, 1853-1929

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1853-05-09
Death 1929-11-22
English, German

Biographical notes:

Ornithologist, horticulturist.

Henry Nehrling was born on May 9, 1853 in Herman, Wisconsin. He developed an interest in nature during hikes to and from school. In 1890 he became Custodian of the Public Museum in Milwaukee where he collected plant specimens for their greenhouse. Nehrling then developed a garden in Gotha, Florida, where he purchased land in 1884. He grew, hybridized and popularized many exotic plants for the general public. Caladiums, palms, bamboo and amaryllis were all introduced to the United States by way of his Palm Cottage Gardens. In 1917 he purchased land in Naples, Florida, to continue work with fancy leaved Caladiums. He relocated his breeding program to this area and studied tropical plants, and in 1922 he permanently settled in Naples. Nehrling died on November 22, 1929, and was laid to rest in the Gotha Cemetery. His Naples garden was preserved as the Jungle Larry's Caribbean Gardens.

From the description of Henry Nehrling papers, 1886-1970. (University of Tampa). WorldCat record id: 50633695

Henry Nehrling was born in 1853 in Herman, Wisconsin, the son of German-Americans Carl Nehrling and Elizabeth (Ruge) Nehrling. His education in Lutheran parochial schools led him to eventually complete a teacher education program at the Lutheran Teacher's Seminary in Addison, Illinois. After graduation, Henry married Sophia Schoff and launched a teaching career with Lutheran parochial schools. Henry and Sophia had nine children together.

Nehrling was always interested in birds and studied them wherever he lived. His teaching career took him to Illinois, Missouri and Texas. By 1897, Nehrling had published three books on birds, all written in the German language. Nehrling became known as "the Audubon of Wisconsin." While in Texas, Nehrling also became interested in tropical plants and palm trees. At the Columbian Exposition of 1893, Nehrling had the opportunity to examine a great number of tropical plants and trees, including the fancy-leafed caladium. With its colorful variegated leaves, the caladium held an enduring fascination for Nehrling. Through a South American horticulturist, Adolph Leitz, Nehrling acquired hundreds of Brazilian caladium specimens. These were first housed in his greenhouse in Milwaukee. Many of them were later moved to his new home in Gotha, Florida.

In Central Florida, Nehrling believed he had found a paradise to grow his caladiums, which he did with great success for many years. Nehrling created new hybrid caladiums, two of which he named for his son and his son's wife, the "Arno Nehrling" and the "Mrs. Arno Nehrling." Nehrling also assigned names in honor of his wife, the "Mrs. Sophie Nehrling," and in honor of his long time friend, the "Theodore Mead," who was another prominent name in early Florida horticulture. Nehrling and Mead wrote to each other, exchanged seeds, plants and information for nearly thirty years. In Gotha, Nehrling also began to experiment with the colorful annual flowering Amaryllis, which was a favorite of Theodore Mead's. By 1908, Nehrling's study of the Amaryllis led him to write a manuscript titled "Die Amaryllis."

In Central Florida, Nehrling believed he had found a paradise to grow his caladiums, which he did with great success for many years. Nehrling created new hybrid caladiums, two of which he named for his son and his son's wife, the "Arno Nehrling" and the "Mrs. Arno Nehrling." Nehrling also assigned names in honor of his wife, the "Mrs. Sophie Nehrling," and in honor of his long time friend, the "Theodore Mead," who was another prominent name in early Florida horticulture. Nehrling and Mead wrote to each other, exchanged seeds, plants and information for nearly thirty years. In Gotha, Nehrling also began to experiment with the colorful annual flowering Amaryllis, which was a favorite of Theodore Mead's. By 1908, Nehrling's study of the Amaryllis led him to write a manuscript titled "Die Amaryllis."

For years, Nehrling had been a collaborator with the Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction, which was part of what was then called the Bureau of Plant Industry. Through this connection, Nehrling was able to expand his international contacts and gather information, plants and seeds from tropical horticulturists around the world. By the 1920's, Henry Nehrling had become one of the world's leading authorities on tropical plant lore. After a devastating freeze in Central Florida, Nehrling moved the focus of his activities to Naples, in southern Florida, where he set up what he called his "Tropical Gardens." By 1925, Nehrling had over three thousand species of tropical plants growing in Naples.

Nehrling was a true naturalist. He studied nature with great intensity and found Florida to be a paradise for his passions. Near the end of his life, he wrote "In both the cultivation, and enjoyment of gardens is peace, rest and contentment... As I look out my window at the orchid laden trees, I wonder what more life could offer anywhere."

Henry Nehrling died on Nov. 22, 1929 and was buried in Woodlawn cemetery near Gotha, Florida.

  • 1888: Born May 9, 1853 to Carl Nehrling and Elizabeth Ruge Nehrling at the town of Herman, near Howard's Grove in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. Attended a Lutheren parochial school near Herman.
  • 1869 - 1873 : Attended the State Normal School in Addison, Illinois.
  • 1873: Graduated Teacher's Seminary in Addison, Illinois.
  • 1874: Married Sophia Schoff of Oak Park, Illinois on July 20.
  • 1874 - 1884 : Taught school in Illinois, Missouri and Texas.
  • 1879 - 1884 : Taught school and studied birds in Texas. Began experimenting with tropical and subtropical plants.
  • 1884: Bought property in Gotha near Orlando, Florida. Appointed Deputy Collector and Inspector of Customs at the Port of Milwaukee.
  • 1886: First came to Florida from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, eventually creating what he called his "Palm Cottage Gardens" in Gotha, Florida.
  • 1890: Published a book titled "Orchids in South Florida." Became interested in rubber and fig trees (Genus Ficus).
  • 1891: Published "Die Nordamericanish Vogelwelt" (Birds of North America).
  • 1893: Visits Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Vol. I of "Our Native Birds of Song and Beauty" completed.
  • 1897: Volume II of "Our Native Birds of Song and Beauty" is completed.
  • 1902: Nehrling worked as an orthinologist with the Philadelphia Commercial Museum.
  • 1904: Nehrling moved to Gotha, Florida.
  • 1906: Began working as a colaborator with the Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Plant Industries.
  • 1908: Wrote an essay titled "Die Amaryllis."
  • 1911: Nehrling's wife Sofia, died on November 11.
  • 1916: Nehrling worked as an orthinologist with the Philadelphia Commercial Museum.
  • 1916: Nehrling married Betty B. Mitchell June 7.
  • 1917: Freeze kills many valuable plants at Gotha causing Nehrling to seek out the Naples property in south Florida where he created what he called his "Tropical Garden."
  • 1922 - 1929 : Numerous articles published in the weekly paper titled "The American Eagle." (Estero, Florida)
  • 1924: Moved plants from Naples, Florida to Sebring Florida.
  • 1926: Created a nursery in Sebring, Florida as part of a partnership which soon dissolved.
  • 1929: Awarded Meyer Medal for Distinguished Service in Plant Exploration by the Miami Garden Club.
  • 1929: Nehrling died on November 22. He was buried at Woodlawn Cemetary near Gotha, Florida.

From the guide to the Henry Nehrling Collection, 1890-1929, (Archives and Special Collections, Olin Library, Rollins College)

Henry Nehrling, an ornithologist and horticulturist, was born on 9 May 1853 in Herman, Wisconsin, to Carl Nehrling and Elizabeth Ruge. His walks to and from a Lutheran parochial school several miles from his home gave him an opportunity to develop a passionate interest in birds and plants. He completed a teacher education program at the Lutheran Teacher's Seminary in Addison, Illinois and taught in Illinois, Missouri and Texas. Nehrling married Sophia Schoff of Oak Park, Illinois on July 20, 1874 and they had nine children. Their eldest son, Walter, became a professor of Botany at Illinois State Normal School. Henry Nehrling was an original member of the American Ornithologist's Union formed in 1883.

While living in Houston, Texas from 1879, Nehrling first had the opportunity of growing tropical plants. In 1887, he was appointed deputy collector and inspector of customs at the port of Milwaukee where he remained for three years until he accepted the post of Custodian of the Public Museum in Milwaukee where he collected plant specimens for their greenhouse. He purchased land in Gotha, Florida in 1884, but did not visit the property until 1886. Slowly, as his finances allowed, he developed the property into an ornamental garden. At the Columbian Exposition of 1893, Nehrling had the opportunity of examining many tropical plants and trees and became fascinated with the fancy-leafed caladium. Through a South American horticulturist, Adolph Lietz, Nehrling acquired hundreds of Brazilian caladium specimens. These were first housed in his greenhouse in Milwaukee but were later moved to Gotha. Nehrling created new hybrid caladiums which he named in honor of his wife, the "Mrs. Sophie Nehrling," his son the "Arno Nehrling" and his daughter-in-law "Mrs. Arno Nehrling."

Nehrling lost his position with the Public Museum of Milwaukee and permanently settled in Gotha in 1904. where he also began to experiment with the colorful annual flowering Amaryllis. He grew, hybridized, and popularized many unusual and exotic plants for the general public. Caladiums, palms, bamboo, and amaryllis were all introduced to the United States by way of his Palm Cottage Gardens. Nehrling collaborated with the Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction, which was part of what was then called the Bureau of Plant Industry. Through this connection, Nehrling was able to expand his international contacts and gather information, plants and seeds from tropical horticulturists around the world. Nehrling's garden became so well known that people like John Burroughs, Thomas Edison, and Theodore Roosevelt came to visit and learn gardening tips. Nehrling's wife, Sophia, died on November 11, 1911, and on June 7, 1916 he married Betty P. Mitchell. A freeze in 1917 killed many of his most valuable plants; to avoid a recurrence, he purchased property in Naples, Florida where he could safely grow tropical species. He settled there in 1922 and by 1925, Nehrling had over three thousand species of tropical plants. Financial problems forced him to return to Gotha where he died on November 22, 1929 and was buried in Woodlawn cemetery near Gotha. His garden in Naples was preserved as the Jungle Larry's Caribbean Gardens and some efforts have been made to preserve his Palm Cottage Gardens in Gotha.

Nehrling always wrote about his interests; he wrote articles on birds for the Nuttall Ornithological Club in Texas. In 1922, he began writing columns for The American Eagle, a weekly newspaper published in Estero, Florida. His first book Orchids in South Florida was published in 1890 and was followed a year later by Dis Nordamericanish Vogelwelt (North American Songbirds). Two volumes of Our Native Birds of Song and Beauty were published in 1893 and 1896 respectively. His next work, Die Amaryllis oder Rittersterne (Hippeastrum) (The Amaryllis), was published in 1908.

From the guide to the Henry Nehrling, Papers, 1886-1970, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Central Florida Libraries, )

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Ark ID:
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Subjects:

  • Plants, Ornamental
  • Florida--Climate
  • Birds--Florida
  • Birds--North America
  • Horticulturists
  • Gardening
  • Gardening--Florida
  • Horticulture--Florida
  • Gardens--Florida
  • Plants, Ornamental--Florida
  • Soils--Florida
  • Florida--Orange County--History
  • Agriculture--Florida--OrangeCounty--History
  • Florida--CollierCounty--History
  • Agriculture--Florida--CollierCounty--History
  • Gardens
  • Tropical plants
  • Botany--Florida
  • Horticulture

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Orange--12095--FIPS (as recorded)
  • Naples (Fla.) (as recorded)
  • Florida--Gotha (as recorded)
  • Florida--Naples (as recorded)
  • Florida (as recorded)
  • Collier--12021--FIPS (as recorded)