Greenacres man, 80, ends up in jail, hospital after trying to save butterfly plants

John and Pat Buchholz love nature.

The Greenacres couple grow native Florida plants around their small villa home in The Cloisters, a senior community. They use a rain barrel and a composting bin as part of their philosophy of being environmentally friendly, and they enjoy seeing birds and butterflies.

But John Buchholz's passion for plants led him into handcuffs and later the hospital Tuesday after he attempted to stop landscapers from removing plants he was growing along a wooden fence in his back yard.

The Buchholzes said they have been arguing with the Cloisters Property Owners Association for years over demands to remove plants that have been growing behind their house for more than a decade. They acknowledge that the association owns the property 6 feet in from the fence, but said they would rather see butterfly-attracting plants than sod.

The landscaping dispute came to a head Tuesday morning when workers arrived to remove the plants. John Buchholz, a retired Pratt & Whitney machinist, stood his ground.

"This is where you stop," Buchholz told the workers armed with shovels when they approached the blue porterweed, corn plants, coontie, firebush and others.

That's when property managers called police.

When police officers arrived, he continued to protest. According to Greenacres police, Buchholz screamed and yelled at the workers and prevented them from removing the plants.

During the confrontation, Pat Buchholz read passages from Earth Blessings, Prayers for Our Planet, a pamphlet from the Unity in the Pines church.

John Buchholz, 80, compared himself to Rosa Parks taking a stand for what is right. Then he cracked a joke. He told police they might want to call for backup because he had been trained in karate. They called for backup.

Buchholz was placed in handcuffs, charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence. He's scheduled to make a first appearance in court June 26.

While he was in the back of the car, Buchholz said he complained that it was very hot. He decided to lie down, and the next thing he knew he was in an ambulance. He underwent tests and spent the night at Wellington Regional Medical Center.

Linda Jo Lewis, property manager for The Cloisters, said several homeowners received notice that plants along the fence would be removed and noted that removing them was necessary to gain access to the fence for maintenance and to maintain an easement for Florida Power & Light Co.

"We've been working with him for years on this issue," Lewis said, referring to Buchholz. "We would have been more than happy to relocate the plants."

Buchholz still hopes to restore his garden, despite a warning letter from Lewis that says any new plants placed along the fence will be removed at his expense.

"I'm going to appear in court and plead to let me replant my butterfly garden," he said.

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