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Ferneries

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An asparagus fern.

Through the years, Palm Beach County farmers have planted a variety of commercial crops from Jupiter to Boca Raton. Henry and Herbert Pennock came to Jupiter in 1895 from Philadelphia, where their family had an established florist business. The brothers started not only a dairy farm but also a fernery, which supplied asparagus ferns (asparagus plumosus) to florists across the United States. In some years the fernery made almost as much profit as the dairy. The plants were packed in ice and shipped by train, the quickest route to florists before they wilted. Each bundle of 20 sprigs sold for about $2.00, with eighty bundles to a box.

Asparagus ferns were a large part of Jupiter’s economy for about thirty years, and had just that many shippers at its peak. There were ferneries on both the north and south sides of the Loxahatchee River, and from Center Street west to what is now Central Boulevard. After the freezes of 1917, more growers switched from pineapples to ferns.

From 1929 to 1959 there was even an incorporated town named Plumosus City, when primarily growers—including the Pennocks, J. F. “Fred” Turner, Andrew Sullivan, and Nathan Trowell—took their land out of the Town of Jupiter in defiance of high taxes. Monthly meetings were held at Pennock Plantation. Most of Plumosus City has now been annexed back into Jupiter. But by 1930 the fern industry had died anyway due to the combined effects of the 1928 hurricane, the Depression, and damage from cicadas (loud, winged insects often incorrectly called “locusts”).

 

 

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