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Garden 489 - Dr. Henry Perrine

Posted By Steve W. Delicat, Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dr. Henry Perrine, born April 5th, 1797 in Cranbury, New Jersey, was a teacher, medical doctor, and botanist, who did plenty in order to help better society. As a youth while growing up, he taught school for two years, and studied medicine, and at the young age of 22, he moved away from home to Bond County, Illinois in order to put his studies to work. A turning point in his life was in 1821 when he was a victim of arsenic poisoning which he never fully recovered from, but moved to Mississippi leaving his family behind in hopes of improving his health due to the climate.

Continuing, after three years he was appointed U.S. Consul (representative) at Campeche, Yucatan (Mexico) and this is where his fascination with tropical plants grew. The U.S. Treasury had requested al U.S. Consuls to find useful plants that could be introduced to the U.S. but Perrine was the only one who responded to this request. Dr. Perrine became interested in establishing a colony to grow these tropical crops, & he would collect and ship seeds to acquaintances in South Florida, one of them Charles Howe at Indian Key. He received a land grant and was able to form The Tropical Plant Company of Florida along with Judge James Webb of Key West, and Charles Howe, postmaster of Indian Key being its director. He was advised of Indian hostilities on the mainland, those of the Seminole, due to the second Seminole War, so he moved with his family to Indian Key in 1838 on Christmas, and 2 years later died during the August 7, 1840 Indian attack.

Dr. Henry Perrine is responsible for introducing about 70 exotic, but useful tropical plants into the south Florida area and although he died an early death, his name still lives on today, with both a community, and an elementary school named after him.  

As for the location, I remember walking through the FIU Nature Preserve and feeling as if I was in a different environment, like I wasn’t at FIU anymore, away from everyone and out in the nearby wilderness, and I feel as if it kind of relates to the Indian Keys, which was where Perrine lived before he died. The Indian Keys today is pretty much an isolated island where people can go to get away and visit the Historic State Park there, and do water activities such as swimming or kayaking; although the nature preserve is not an island and within the FIU civilization, it is a place of its own. 

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