Thomas Edison

By Lisa Vargues, Amy Weiss

Mar 1 2019

In 1927, Thomas Edison and his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone established the Edison Botanic Research Corporation in Florida. They were concerned that an international emergency, such as a war, could sever America’s supply of imported rubber. They endeavored to find plants that could be grown locally, quickly, and economically to produce rubber. Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) proved the most promising source of latex.

Edison collaborated with NYBG’s head curator at the time (and Florida plant specialist), John Kunkel Small, who provided assistance with plant identification and collection. The development of synthetic rubber during World War II ended the domestic natural rubber project.

More about: Historical specimens

Read a longer story about these specimens (by Lisa Vargues) on NYBG's Science Talk blog:

In search of Thomas Edison’s botanical treasures