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Where the green fern and foliage grow

Miami is the hub of the U.S. floral industry because it serves as the distribution center for flowers and foliage from across the globe. And five hours north, along a rural corridor winding through three central Florida counties, sits the production hub of the American cut foliage industry.

With Greenery being the 2017 Pantone Color of the Year, and the popularity of foliage designs — including garlands — being at an all-time high, this seems like the appropriate time to learn more about the history of this niche industry.

OLD-PLU-PRODUCTIONThe Pierson family in their plumosus fernery in the early 1900s in Volusia County, FL.For more than 100 years, farm families in small towns like Pierson, Seville and Barberville, FL, have battled Mother Nature to provide fern and foliage for florists in the U.S. and world markets. From the basics of leatherleaf and plumosus to the ever popular variegated pittosporum, exciting tropicals and more than 70 total varieties of cut foliage in production, there is truly something for everyone available from these Florida farms.

Florida’s cut foliage industry began in 1893, with the commercial production of plumosus fern (Asparagus plumosus). This early production occurred in the small town of Yalaha, in Lake County, by Trusten Drake Sr.

By the early 1900s, the center of plumosus production had moved to the town of Pierson, in Volusia County, thanks to Peter Pierson. Peter’s brother, A.N. Pierson, a florist in Connecticut, thought Florida’s climate would be perfect for large-scale production of plumosus, so in 1904 he shipped 10,000 plumosus plants to Pierson from seeds he had obtained from Italy.

After being planted in a large slat house, the runners were trained to grow up strings and would be harvested at lengths of four to eight feet. The strands were placed in wooden crates with ice and shipped by rail car to the family floral shop in Connecticut.

From these humble beginnings over a century ago began the multi-million dollar Florida foliage industry that we know and enjoy today.

Jana B. Register is a third-generation fern grower and director of sales and marketing at FernTrust Inc. in Seville, FL. She can be contacted at