Crotons were named after family members, favorite pets and politicians.
By the 1950s, some nurseries around Miami sold only crotons. Landscapers were using them for hedges, and entire neighborhoods were full of them.
They're on a mission to find the crotons of yesteryear before they disappear.
"It's gotten so hard to find these old crotons, it's almost tragic," says Harold Lee, a Tampa landscape designer and vice president of the Croton Society, a Tampa-based plant society with 180 members from across the U.S., the Caribbean, Central America, even Australia and Japan.
Right now, the horticultural arena is crazy about crotons."
CROTONS do flower, but it's the plant that's showy, not the flower.
The garden has exhibited crotons since the early 1950s, but the collection, now named The Croton Patch, has grown considerably lately, thanks to the efforts of the Croton Society.
"I've seen people get into arguments to the point where they'll lose friendships over names of crotons. I'm telling you, there is something really bizarre about this plant."
Brown, 86, who recently released an updated version of his 1960 book Crotons of the World, agrees, "They're back like gangbusters." Crotons first drew Brown's interest in 1955 when he noticed one growing outside his office.