[The information below was gleaned from the following
sources: The Penn Stater (March/April 2010)
The Lotus Pool plant material, a combination of both tropical
and hardy water-lilies, is being donated by George Griffith ‘56,
who has been cultivating and hybridizing water-lilies since he
was an undergraduate at Penn State. Mr. Griffith, who co-owns
the Flower Barn in Cambria County's Johnstown, with Mr. Tom O'Brien,
began his business career as a boy selling goldfish and tropical
fish at W.T. Grant's, and then became interested in growing water
plants. He has been raising fragrant water- lilies (Nymphaea
odorata) since the 1940s, when his uncle, Dr. Lewis Wesner
of Johnstown, encouraged him to sell the lilies he had introduced
into his pond in Bedford.
Mr. Griffith funded his studies at Penn State, where he received
a bachelor's degree in horticulture, with the proceeds from his
fish and water plant sales.
In 1955, while he was a student, his specialty drew the interest
of Milton Eisenhower, Penn State president and brother of the
U.S. president. To celebrate Dwight Eisenhower's visit to speak
at commencement, Mr. Griffith floated 2,000 water-lilies on a
pond in front of the University president's home. A dramatic photo
of the brothers and the pond appeared in Life magazine.
He has now been hybridizing water-lilies for a half century.
He created the first peach-colored one ('Tom O'Brien') seven years
ago. Other hybrids that he raises and sells include his own hardy
lily 'Pink Sunrise,' two other hardy lilies – 'Lemon Chiffon'
and the darker yellow 'Charlene Strawn' – and two bluish-purple
tropical lilies, 'Director Moore' and 'Foxfire.'
In addition to water-lilies, Mr. Griffith has donated some very
special lotus plants to us – plants that originated from
two seeds collected by a Japanese botanist in a dry Manchurian
lake bed and germinated in 1951 by Paul Souder, a botanist at
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, DC. Other seeds from
this lake bed, which was drained by an earthquake hundreds of
years ago, have been radiocarbon-dated to be as old as 1,300 years.
In 1956, Mr. Griffith became aware of this rare lotus when he
saw the plants blooming in a pond behind a chain-link fence at
Kenilworth. Noticing that they were becoming the target of vandals,
he asked Mr. Souder, his friend, if he might have a division to
raise and help to preserve the variety. The Manchurian lotus bloomed
first at his house in Johnstown and has prospered at his summer
house in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, since he bought it in 1978. Mr.
Griffith has perpetuated the ancient flower but does not sell