Collection of rare plants and trees saved from the bulldozer - FOX 13 News

Collection of rare plants and trees saved from the bulldozer

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A large collection of rare, and in some cases very valuable palms and cycads appears to have found new homes in St. Petersburg.

In a committee meeting Thursday, the St. Petersburg City Council tentatively approved spending $300,000 to buy the greener part of the estate of Dr. U.A. Young, who passed away eight years ago.

He started his botanical collecting in the 1950s.

"He'd collect in South America or collect on his travels just like an experiment," his son, Brad Young, said. "It wasn't an economic environment for him, it was pure hobby."

None of the doctor's three sons can afford to maintain the family home, which sits on land in Beach Park large enough for several new, upscale homes. The property is now on the market, posing a threat to the collection.

"We've all heard of the endangered species list. Almost all of these plants fall into one of those categories," said Phillip Stager, past chairman of the City Beautiful Commission. "As soon as we found out that the collection at the Young estate was possibly for sale, we started to get our ducks in line."

That was about one year ago -- the blink of an eye, if cycads had eyes.

They live "...like 3, 4, 500 years old. It's a different time scale," Young explained. "That's what the advantage of this garden is, just how old it is and how established it is."

With final city council approval next week, work will begin on creating two display areas in St. Petersburg. The palms will be an addition to the Kopsick Palm Aboretum in Northshore Park. However, at least one of the cycads is believed to be the only one of its kind in North America.

"We're looking at the value of the individual cycads and we're looking at which ones we want to keep a closer eye on, and have them in a confined location," city park director Mike Jeffries said. "Those are the ones that we're going to install in Sunken Gardens."

The city will commit $175,000 to moving the plants, creating display areas and caring for them for the next ten years. The Young estate will receive $125,000 for the plants: 300 specified palms and cycads, plus any other plant material and landscaping boulders the city wants to salvage.

"I could dig these up, establish them, break it up, sell them one at a time to the community of cycad collectors, and probably make a lot more," Young said while giving a tour of his father's yard. "But I think the beauty of it is the collection...I talked to my brothers, both of them are very much in to something that's like a dedication to dad."

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