It was an accident, really, the bittersweet discovery of a new breed of Lantana behind alumna Susy Dirr’s house in Chapel Hill, N.C., where she lived in 2004 after a second lung transplant.
Dirr’s father, retired-UGA horticulturist Mike Dirr, recognized the flowering yellow shrub as a different breed and named it after the town where Susy later died. Dirr now breeds the Chapel Hill Lantana at his Watkinsville company, Plant Introductions Inc., with proceeds going to the Sweet Melissa Fund, a non profit established by Mike and Bonné Dirr to raise money for lung transplant recipients and their families. The fund is named for Melissa Alexander, a friend of Susy, who died from cystic fibrosis in 2005.
Susy Dirr (ABJ ’99) died on Jan. 24, 2008, at age 31 after a lifetime battle with cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition affecting the cells lining the lungs and digestive system.
The Chapel Hill Lantana is sold commercially at Cofer’s Home & Garden Showplace in Athens and at Home Depot. For more information on the Sweet Melissa Fund, please visit http://sweetmelissafund.org.