Born in San Luis Obispo, California, Morton (“Mort”) Morss has placed his unique signature on the modern daylily. Mort served in the U.S. Navy and later went on to study painting in San Francisco where he met David Kirchhoff. In 1969 David moved back to his family home in Florida, Daylily World a daylily nursery established by his father Ed, and after deciding to stay invited Mort to come and join them in 1972. While working alongside David and Ed at Daylily World, Mort began to develop his own hybridizing lines beginning with the purples and lavenders of Marsh, Munson, Kirchhoff and Peck. His first introduction, Inner View (Morss 1982), was from the crossing of Munson’s Silver Veil (1977) with David Kirchhoff’s Zinfandel (1980) and received an Honorable Mention from garden judges in 1987. In 2006, David and Mort made the monumental decision to move Daylily World (and five semi loads of daylilies!) from its Florida home to Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.
Mort was one of the early hybridizers to begin working with daylily patterns. The pattern line he developed has earned him significant recognition in the evolution of pattern. Paper Butterfly (1983) received an Honorable mention in 1987 and an Award of Merit in 1990. Later in 1998, Paper Butterfly received the honor of being awarded the Lennington All-American Award for displaying outstanding performance in many different regions. From the Paper Butterfly (1983) line are two highly regarded cultivars, Witch Stitchery (1986) and Gerda Brooker (1995). Witch Stitchery (1986) received an Honorable Mention in 1994, an Award of Merit in 1997 and was the first cultivar to receive the AHS’s newly approved R.W. Munson Award for most outstanding distinctly patterned daylilies in 2001. His Gerda Brooker (1995) followed with an Honorable Mention in 2000 and the R.W, Munson Award in 2005. Following and surpassing its parent Gerda Brooker (1995), Julie Newmar (2000) has been awarded an Honorable Mention in 2004, an Award of Merit in 2007, the R.W. Munson Award in 2006, the Extra Large Diameter Award for outstanding cultivars measuring over 7” and the Early Season Award in 2011 for outstanding performance in the early bloom season. Continuing with the Paper Butterfly (1983) line through parent Julie Newmar (2000) are Mort’s fabulously patterned Marilyn Morss Johnson (2007), named for Mort’s twin sister, and his 2012 introduction Ripples and Reflections.
Long before toothy edges were fashionable and our daylilies smiled back at us with toothy grins… or appeared to want to take a bite as we pass by… Mort was a leader in the toothy characteristic. His Shark’s Tooth (1985) has a serrated edge and the term “teeth” first began to be used by hybridizers for a different characteristic than the more common knobs seen at that time. In 1994 Mort registered Fortune’s Dearest, a grape purple with white toothy edge, an important parent behind many of today’s toothy cultivars. Fortune’s Dearest (1994) received an Honorable Mention in 1999 and an Award of Merit in 2002. Violet Victory (Morss 2000), a child of Fortune’s Dearest (1994), is a violet flower with blue-violet watermark and white toothy edge. Mort’s 1995 introduction Mort’s Masterpiece, which received a 2000 Honorable Mention, is a large cream with a wine eye and a double edge of wine surrounded by white shark’s teeth. The toothy cultivars Barracuda Bay (Salter 1996) and Face the Stars (Lambertson 2001) and many others have Mort’s Masterpiece (1995) in their background.
Mort has the honor of being awarded two of the most prestigious awards a hybridizer can receive, the Stout Silver Medal and the Bertrand Farr Silver Medal. After being awarded the Don C. Stevens Award for the best boldly eyed or banded daylily in 1993, Always Afternoon (Morss 1987) was awarded the Stout Silver Medal. In recognition for outstanding excellence in the art of hybridizing Mort Morss received the Bertrand Farr Silver Medal at the 2000 AHS National Convention.