In 2002, with his health failing, Hans Wiehler made the decision to donate the several thousand herbarium specimens of the Gesneriad Research Foundation (GRF) to Selby Gardens. The GRF’s collection of liquid-preserved specimens would soon follow. These specimens had been accumulated through numerous field trips over a nearly 30-year period (1971-1999), and represent the most significant collection of gesneriads made by a single individual. Larry Skog was enlisted to assist in the consolidation of the specimens into the Selby Herbarium. Contributing to this effort were Jeanne Katzenstein (Editor of Gesneriads, the journal of The Gesneriad Society), Bruce Holst (Selby Gardens Herbarium Curator), John R. Clark (now director of gesneriad programs at Selby), Melissa McDowell (Suncoast Chapter of The Gesneriad Society), and many dedicated volunteers.
Meanwhile, Skog was nearing the end of his industrious career at the Smithsonian; retiring in 2003. The venerable institution would not be continuing gesneriad research in an official capacity after his retirement, thus leaving a need for a centralized research program. With its newly acquired GRF collections and existing resources, it was clear to all involved that Selby Gardens was an excellent choice to host a center specializing in gesneriads.