As David Fisher counted down the seconds to 11:20 a.m., a crowd of about 1,000 students inched closer to the rows of plants at his feet.
Collegiate Plant Initiative, a student-run nonprofit focused on connecting students with plants and horticulture, hosted their second plant drop of the semester Friday on Turlington Plaza. The group drove trucks and vans filled with free plants to give away.
The nonprofit passed out more than 1,000 plants at the potato statue on Turlington Plaza at exactly 11:20 a.m. Friday, said Virginia Frazier, a 20-year-old food and resource economics junior and executive director of Collegiate Plant Initiative. At the first plant drop, the organization passed out 212 plants in six minutes.
Fisher, a 19-year-old UF plant breeding and genetics sophomore, said Collegiate Plant Initiative passed out 12 varieties of UF coleus plants, like Gator Glory and Alligator Tears, that were bred by Dave Clark, the UF professor of the Plants, Gardening and You class.
The club gave away 1,100 plants in under six minutes, which exceeded their goal of giving out 1,000 plants in under 30 minutes, Frazier said.
“I think this is five times or 10 times bigger than the first plant drop,” Frazier said. “When we got there the mindset was, ‘Go go go! We have to get these plants out before people get here!’”
As the organization’s volunteers set up rows of plants around the potato statue, a large crowd started to form, Frazier said. The volunteers finished setting the plants up just before they were swarmed with students reaching for plants.
Alberta, one of the UF mascots, also attended the event, said Megan Rogers, a 19-year-old UF zoology sophomore. People continued to go to the statue after the event, only to find the plants gone. Rogers was one of the last people to grab a coleus plant.
Michael Hernandez-Garcia, a 19-year-old UF microbiology and cell science sophomore, found out about the plant drop when Rogers texted him. He said he planned to use his free plant to decorate his house.
“I think this is a great organization, and the purpose that they are serving for the community is really good,” Hernandez-Garcia said.
Grace Ebner, a volunteer and a TA for Plants, Gardens and You, passes out coleus plants to over 1,000 students in Turlington Plaza for Collegiate Plant Initiative.