UF/IFAS professor attracts non-agriculture majors to class; gives student 40,000th plant

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Professor David Clark knows how to entice a broad range of students to his horticultural class: He gives away a plant that he bred. Recently, he donated his 40,000th plant to an undergraduate psychology student.

For the ceremony, Clark, a professor in the Department of Environmental Horticulture, brought Anna Ball, a third generation owner of Ball Horticultural Company, as a special guest lecturer on Oct. 22. Ball, based in West Chicago, Illinois, is one of three companies that licenses Clark’s UF coleus varieties. Ball has sold more UF coleuses than any other company, Clark said.

Ball gave a UF/IFAS coleus plant – in this case a ‘Wasabi,’ bred by Clark and licensed by Ball — to undergraduate student Kendall Stacey, a freshman psychology major. Stacey works with Clark’s new UF/IFAS Plant Innovation Center undergraduate science writing team. Clark is the director of the center.

Stacey is gaining plenty of knowledge about plants from Clark’s class, even as he inspires her.

“I have learned so much about plants and keeping them alive: My tomato plant is full of fruit, I’m growing an orange tree as we speak and I have two thriving banana plants,” she said. “He’s a really amazing teacher and he managed to give us extra credit opportunities that allowed us to learn outside of the classroom through personal experience. I will definitely be growing more plants, and I’ve come to be able to recognize and identify plants that I see around campus.

“I’m definitely considering taking more courses in Environmental Horticulture just because it is so interesting and enjoyable,” Stacey said.

Ball made the presentation during Clark’s ORH 1030 class – Plants, Gardening and You — an introductory environmental horticulture course open to any major. The class, a one-credit elective, is taken by students from every major on campus.

Clark started teaching the class in 2007 to help the environmental horticulture department attract students into plant science. Clark said when he first started teaching the course, he came up with three ideas: charge a small lab fee and solicit plant and seed donations to give away plants at every class, give credit for attendance and give extra credit for bringing a friend to class.

“The idea to make ‘Gator Glory’ coleus, and the name for that plant came from this class,” he said. “The plant we gave away as the 40,000th was licensed by Ball and named ‘Wasabi’ but is special to me because it was the first plant that my son Grayson Clark co-invented with me.” Clark’s son is a senior in the UF/IFAS Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and is on the U.S. Plant Patent for the ‘Wasabi’ plant given to Stacey. He is also a co-inventor for the ‘Gator Glory’ coleus plants displayed on the commencement stage each graduation and given out by the UF president at special events. 

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Caption: UF/IFAS environmental horticulture Professor David Clark gave his 40,00th plant – a ‘Wasabi,’ which he bred — to undergraduate student Kendall Stacy during class on Oct. 22. Pictured here are (left to right) Clark; Marvin Miller, market research manager for Ball Horticultural Company; Anna Ball, a third generation owner of Ball Horticultural Company; Stacey and Sandra Wilson, chair of the UF/IFAS Department of Environmental Horticulture.

Credit: UF/IFAS

 

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: David Clark, 352-273-4577, geranium@ufl.edu