“It’s important to take care to “keep your wits about you” as Mark Twain said, because the unexpected results are the important ones.”
Thomas Edison purchased property in Fort Myers Florida in 1885, next door to Henry Ford, and together they experimented with plants that might become a domestic source for rubber and took up Landscaping as a passion. The Edison Botanic Research Corporation was formed, commissioning botanical collectors far and wide to seek out promising varieties. He had seedlings sent from foreign countries and tramped around in the swamps himself looking for specimens. Over 17,000 plants were tested. In the end, a giant version of the common goldenrod, dubbed Solidago Edisonia, was deemed the best candidate. This the basis of the Rubber that our tires are made of in Modern day Society!
Edison created his own landscape design for Seminole Lodge. It’s not particularly good. Practical, utilitarian. But it was like him to think he could lay out a garden as well as he could lay out a lightbulb!
He used soil from the adjacent Caloosahatchee River to enrich his fourteen acres, and one of the reasons he originally bought the property was that it was already established with bamboo. Carbonized bamboo was one of the first lightbulb filaments, lasting over 1200 hours before burning out. Other specimens planted by Edison and Ford for their research still grow on the property, some having reached huge proportions in Florida’s plant-friendly climate: a 57 foot sausage tree, a 97 foot royal palm (Edison loved royal palms), a 102 foot ficus, and one of the largest banyans in the US.
Edison’s botanical research, prompted by rubber shortages in WWI, was the last of his large scientific efforts. It was still underway when he died in 1931. As he neared the end of his life, Edison tributes were many. Apparently there was a press release listing his favorite flowers. In 1929, the Thomas Edison Dahlia was introduced at the American Dahlia Society’s annual show in Madison Square Garden.
Thomas Edison had 1,093 patents.
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