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Spring Festival opens in a world of rare, beautiful

MANATEE — Well in excess of one million rare and beautiful plants will be on display and for sale during Tropiflora’s 10th annual Spring Festival today through Sunday.

Tropiflora’s speciality is bromeliads, which includes thousands of plants ranging from Spanish moss to pineapples, and many others with brilliant, long-lasting blooms.

The Spring Festival started a decade ago when a friend of Tropiflora owner Dennis Carthcart became terminally ill with lung cancer.

Wally Berg, of Sarasota, wanted to share his huge and renowned bromeliad collection with other plant lovers. It was a huge undertaking to haul all of Berg’s plants to market, clean and label them. But it attracted hundreds, and Berg, who died a few days later, was comforted that his beloved plants had gone to good homes. That sale inspired Carthcart to launch a local tradition.

The 33-year-old nursery at 3530 Tallevast Road is one of the largest of its kind in the United States and sells its rare plants around the world. Tropiflora recently completed a $2.2 million deal to send plants to Singapore.

“We get people from all over Florida for the festival,” Carthcart said, predicting as many as 4,000 will attend.

Although Carthcart hopes visitors will buy from the nearly 20 vendors and six acres of greenhouses and plants, admission is free, as is the live music, donuts and coffee — as long as they last.

Linda Carthcart says of her husband: “I live with a man who got to live his hobby. He has been collecting plants his whole life.”

The pursuit of beautiful plants has taken Dennis Carthcart to Madagascar, Australia, the Andes and the Amazon, and it’s all been done legally in the increasingly regulated world of rare plants, he said.

A portion of the proceeds from the sales will go to the bromeliad researchers at Selby Gardens.

Festival hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Saturday, and 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 351-2267.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 708-7916.

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