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Selby Gardens co-founder Carlyle Luer passes at 97

In his 97 years, Dr. Carlyle Luer was a master artist, renowned in the world of botany and most importantly for Sarasota, instrumental  in the founding and evolution of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

Luer was born Aug. 23, 1922 in Alton, Illinois, where he attended Western Military Academy. It was in St. Louis at Washington University where he earned his medical degree. He was stationed from 1946 to 1950 in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Linz, Austria and soon after completed his residency in surgery.

It was not long after that Sarasota beckoned the young doctor.

In 1953, he moved and started a medical practice in Sarasota wherein he operated for two decades. It was on the property of his waterfront home where he fell in love with orchids that grew throughout his property.

Luer was not content to be a passive gardener or simple steward of household plants. He became so immersed in the world of orchids that in 1972 he published “The Native Orchids of Florida” and in 1975, “The Native Orchids of the United States and Canada: Excluding Florida.”

His interest was furthered when one of his patients, Marie Selby, was supportive of Luer’s vision of creating a botanical garden in Sarasota.

The Gift of Selby

Marie Selby and her husband, William Selby’s, property that is the Sarasota Bayfront section of today’s botanical garden was left for that purpose when Marie passed in 1971.

Luer was so dedicated to the evolution of Selby Gardens that he left his practice to work full time at the Gardens soon after.

Luer became known internationally and was inducted into the Linnean Society of London and was awarded the Gold Medal of Achievement from the American Orchid Society.

Throughout his life, Luer would fly to exotic locations to track down a rare or particular orchid specimen. Even more impressively, Luer illustrated thousands of orchid species and amassed thousands of spirit specimens preserved in liquid solution.

His first specimen of orchid that he collected was from Gerona, Spain in April 1974.

Dr. Luer was instrumental in working with Selby’s first CEO, Dr. Calaway Dodson, to purchase and develop and amass a world-class research library with a complete collection of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine that has been published since 1787 through today. Selby Gardens has every edition as well as more than 2,500 prints dating back centuries.

Dr. Luer created and edited Selby’s research journal, Selbyana.

As remarkable as his illustrations, was the immense number of scholarly articles published by Luer, which continued unabated until the final days of his productive life.

Luer passed on Nov. 9. A Celebration of Life is planned for Dr. Luer with a date pending, his family requests that contributions be made to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in lieu of flowers.

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