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August 24, 2021


Translational Plant Sciences Graduate Program Blog
JL (Jordan) Hartman holding a BLMbegonia

During the summer of 2020, protests erupted across the nation to support the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the murder of George Floyd. As people took to the streets to raise their voices about racial injustices and police brutality, a PhD student in the Horticulture and Crop Sciences Department at The Ohio State University had a clever idea to start selling house plants to support these protestors and the Black-owned businesses that had closed in solidarity with them. JL (Jordan) Hartman wanted to support the immediate needs of his community by selling his beloved Belinda. Belinda is a variety of the Begonia plant called Midnight Twist, characterized by black-hued leaves. JL had recently propagated this plant for friends and family. He sold 9 of these plants and raised $540 to support protestor triage in the form of sunscreen, eye rinse, water, snacks, and face masks. Proceeds also went to The District, a black-and-queer owned business in Raleigh, North Carolina that closed the first month of June in solidarity with protestors.

JL gets his affinity for plant sales from his membership to Pi Alpha Xi, the honors horticultural fraternity at North Carolina State. Pi Alpha Xi hosts large plant sales, grossing thousands of dollars to support local horticultural causes. After successfully selling a few of his begonia house plants, JL decided to start an organization called BLMbegonias to sell begonia plants at a larger scale and to continue supporting Black communities. Begonias are very easy to propagate, and their stunning foliage is among the most diverse in the plant kingdom. In addition to the Midnight Twist variety, BLMbegonias has also been propagating the Spotted Angel Wing and General Tiger Rex varieties. The Ornamental Plant Germplasm Center at OSU has a Begonia germplasm collection, and BLMbegonias hopes to work with them to expand their own collection to offer more varieties at future plant sales. Another great collaboration being formed is the American Begonia Society, which offers a wealth of knowledge and resources on begonia plants.

BLMbegonias plant sale

BLMbegonias had its first large plant sale this past spring through participation in the Chadwick Arboretum plant sale. A lot of time and hard work went into the preparation for this sale, but the group was very successful by completely selling out of their inventory! They sold about 180 plants and raised over $1700. BLMbegonias plans to donate the proceeds from this sale to support the local black community in Columbus. Some of the proceeds will be used to support PitchBLACK, an event that supports project ideas led by Black people in Columbus.

There is a stigma about the difficulty of growing begonias at home—with the right tools and care, anyone can do it, anyone can buy a BLMbegonia and help it thrive! Follow @blmbegonias on Instagram for updates on how they are using their proceeds to support Black Columbus communities, plant care tips, and info about upcoming plant sales. If you are a student in CFAES and want to join, email scheppler.1@osu.edu. If you would like to make a donation, please email mccoy.766@osu.edu.

JL would like to give a huge thank you to his fellow BLMbegonia members- it has been an incredible team effort and he is thankful for their support: Isabel Emanuel, Hannah Scheppler, Rachel Combs, John Ertle, Jack McCoy, Gio Papio, Madeline Horvat, and Maria Sholola.


Written by TPS PhD candidate Rachel Combs-Giroir

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