Getting It Right By Bridget White

Everyone makes mistakes once in a while, so when I learnedthat the ivy pictured in last month’s “Perennial Solutions”was not Hedera helix ‘DuckFoot’, I cringed, but I wasn’t too surprised. Everyone makesmistakes. There were some misunderstandings (see note from Paul, right); thegrower mistakenly grew it, and the propagator mistakenly shipped it.

Many mistakes for one little plant, and the implications arepretty far reaching, including a whole lot of plants that are currently beingmarketed as Duck Foot but have yet to be identified. (We think, by the way,that these mystery plants are one of the Duck Foot parents or grandparents.)And this is where I started to transition from magnanimous to worried. Sure,everyone makes mistakes; things happen, but plant identification?

I learned that many growers in the Northwest are selling ourmystery plant as Duck Foot. They were surprised to find out it wasn’t.And we were all a bit confused. How can a plant be propagated and marketedunder the wrong name?

Probably a simple mistake, but it could be costly. Ifgrowers can’t identify a plant — or trust their suppliers to do so– they certainly can’t sell it (just think about invasive plantlists here if you have doubts). And, such as in this case, what if the plantsare being grown as the “Ivy of the Year?” Dumped?

Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not pointing fingers.I firmly believe this was an honest mistake, but from one little mistake, Ifind myself wondering about in-house propagation and labeling andresponsibility. I could call for more labeling, but that doesn’t help ifyou don’t really know what the plant is. We could look at tighter controlon in-house propagation, but why punish the innocent? No, the answer lies withhow we conduct business — in taking responsibility. Responsibility forwhat we sell and how we sell it; for having an intimate, first-hand knowledgeof what we sell; for loving the industry as well as the plants — in shortfor being leaders instead of merchants.

Bridget White, Editorial Director

(847) 391-1004 * [email protected]

Dear Editor,

After reviewing “Perennial Solutions” from theOctober 2003 issue, I realized the photos printed in the article are not Hederahelix Duck Foot. At this time the varietypictured has not been properly identified. I send my sincere apologies to thestaff of your publication and to all of your subscribers regarding this error.Here is the correct photo of Duck Foot, which clearly demonstrates the realcharacteristics and attributes of this variety.

There appear to be different cultivars of Hedera helix being marketed as Duck Foot that are not actuallythe true Duck Foot cultivar. It is difficult, if not impossible, to determinewhen and how this blurring of cultivars has occurred. If any of yoursubscribers are currently propagating or selling Duck Foot please advise themto take any necessary measures to properly identify their plant material toensure that they are distributing the right variety. It is not an acceptablepractice to intentionally supply falsely identified and labeled plants to themarketplace. The American Ivy Society has pictures of Hedera helix Duck Foot available on its Web site ( can be contacted at [email protected] to help determine if your Duck Foot isindeed the correct cultivar.

Queries for ivy identification should be sent to: RussellWindle, International Registrar, P.O. Box 461, Lionville, PA 19353, T: (610)970-9175 E: [email protected] Or, contact Suzanne Pierot, PresidentAmerican Ivy Society, 33 Hickory Rd., Willow, NY 12495, T: (845) 688-5318 E:[email protected]

Regardless of what types of plant materials (perennials orannuals) are being produced, greenhouses and nurseries have a great, and oftenoverlooked, responsibility when supplying plant materials to the industry.Great care should be taken to properly identify, label and market all of theplants that leave your operation. The integrity of this industry and thereputation of your business are at stake when distributing improper plantgenetics into the trade. Growers must take the role of propagator, or plantproducer, seriously and implement the necessary steps to ensure that whateveris sold is indeed true to type.


Paul Pilon, Sawyer Nursery Inc.

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Bridget White

Bridget White is editorial director of GPN.

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