Commissioner Adam H. Putnam


Florida Agriculture: 500 Years in the Making

Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame

Dr. Julia Morton

Julia Morton was reared on a 100-acre farm in Vermont, where she developed a deep-appreciation for the outdoors, agricultural crops and natural resources. After completing high school, she met Kendal Morton. The husband-wife team created a living encyclopedia of edible plants during the worldwide Depression that was causing a food shortage.

They collected and tested tropical fruits in the Bahamas and in Florida. They later wrote "Fifty Tropical Fruits of Nassau." That work served as a springboard for them to establish the Morton Collectanea as a research and information center at the University of Miami.

When her husband died, she perpetuated their research and field work. She carried on their mission with added field work for the National Cancer Institute and through participation in a survival tour in the Philippines and Southeast Asia during the vietnam War. Morton also conducted surveys of cashew plantations in Venezuela, Colombia and Peru.

Through television, newspaper columns, lectures and teaching classes, she educated students, professionals and the general public about the assets and liabilities of plants and exotic weed trees.

Morton has continually served gratis as a poison plant consultant and presents safety lectures to the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Power and Light, and Southern Bell crewmen.

She has helped law enforcement agencies solve homicide cases by using tiny bits of plants as clues. And she has helped veterinarians identify plant-related illnesses in horses, cattle, dogs and other pets. One of her most important contributions to Florida agriculture was the discovery of creeping indigo as the cause of a crippling and usually fatal neurological syndrome in Florida horses.

In 1973, she received a Florida State University honorary doctoral degree for her research and writings to the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.

Throughout her career, she has written a plethora of plant science publications and continues to add to the impressive list. She is currently writing about mangos and cashews for Academic Press' Encyclopedia of Food Science, Technology and Nutrition.

Morton also has taken a leadership role for many groups and organizations. She was the chairman of the Council for the Society for Economic Botany, the chairman of the membership committee for the American society of Pharmacognosy, and the president, vice president and chairman of the executive committee for the Florida State Horticultural Society.

She has garnered many awards during her distinguished career. Some of her honors include: Silver Medal from the Florida State Horticultural Society, Garden and Landscape; Presidential Gold Medal Award from the Florida State Horticultural Society; First Distinguished Economic Botanist from the Society of Economic Botany; Special Award from the Woman's National Farm & Garden Association; Special Conservation Award from the Florida wildlife Federation; Trail Blazer Award from the Women's Committee of 100 in Dade County.

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