North America

Luther Burbank: A tribute to America’s greatest horticulturist

Luther Burbank, at one of his experimental farms in 1901. Luther Burbank was America’s most legendary horticulturist. At the turn of the 20th century, he developed hundreds of new fruit, vegetable, and flower varieties, creating marvels such as the Shasta daisy and the Santa Rosa plum. If America had a national plant, it might be his russet Burbank potato, which alleviated the lingering effects of the Irish famine and makes up most of McDonald’s potato fries today. The media portrayed Burbank as a saintly, botanical wizard. For decades, thousands of people traveled to his Santa Rosa home, trying to catch a glimpse of him at work. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford sought his friendship, and after his death, both Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera painted him. Around his grave at the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, the plants he pioneered are still growing, watched over by garden curator Rachel Spaeth. “A man can patent a mousetrap or copyright a nasty song,” Burbank once groused. “But if he gives to the world a new fruit that will add millions to the value of earth’s annual harvests, he will be fortunate if he is rewarded by so much as having his name connected with the result.” Read more

Categories: North America, Varieties