ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Mike Neff has been a board member for the Gotha community's Nehrling Gardens for more than 10 years, but his view of the gardens has changed dramatically just in the past year.

  • Overflowing Lake Nally flooding state landmark Nehrling Gardens
  • Bamboo near shore of lake is being suffocated at the roots
  • Board member asking for drainage assessment, flood relief
  • PREVIOUS STORY: Gotha Community Plagued by Flooding

Nehrling Gardens, a state heritage landmark, is where Dr. Henry Nehrling at the turn of the century experimented and tested more than 3,000 plants for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But "right now, the waters have risen and made the wetlands completely wet," Neff said. "They’ve inundated an observation deck and they are threatening silver streak bamboo, which we thought were at the 100-year flood plain."

The bamboo Neff speaks of should be green. But because of the rising water at Lake Nally, the water from the lake has suffocated the plants' roots, turning the brown and dead.

"The water will kill them," Neff said. "I suppose plants can migrate up and down in the wetland if they have time to do that, but when lakes flood, then plants can’t adapt."

The current water line is now about 6 feet from the base of a water oak tree. If that tree's roots also get flooded, its roots will suffocate, which will kill the tree.

The St. Johns River Water Management District said that because Lake Nally is landlocked, there's nowhere for the water to go unless it evaporates or drains.

"When the ground becomes saturated, the water has no or very minimal ability to infiltrate," the district's Cammie Dewey said.

The gardens now need more than sunshine and dry days. 

"We need flood relief," Neff said. "Long-term, there needs to be an assessment of the drainage in the area and some solutions explored."