Getting It Right

November 11, 2003 - 11:43

Editor's Report

Everyone makes mistakes once in a while, so when I learned
that the ivy pictured in last month's "Perennial Solutions"
was not Hedera helix 'Duck
Foot', I cringed, but I wasn't too surprised. Everyone makes
mistakes. There were some misunderstandings (see note from Paul, right); the
grower mistakenly grew it, and the propagator mistakenly shipped it.

Many mistakes for one little plant, and the implications are
pretty far reaching, including a whole lot of plants that are currently being
marketed 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 our
mystery 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 marketed
under the wrong name?

Probably a simple mistake, but it could be costly. If
growers can't identify a plant -- or trust their suppliers to do so
-- they certainly can't sell it (just think about invasive plant
lists here if you have doubts). And, such as in this case, what if the plants
are 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, I
find myself wondering about in-house propagation and labeling and
responsibility. I could call for more labeling, but that doesn't help if
you don't really know what the plant is. We could look at tighter control
on in-house propagation, but why punish the innocent? No, the answer lies with
how we conduct business -- in taking responsibility. Responsibility for
what we sell and how we sell it; for having an intimate, first-hand knowledge
of what we sell; for loving the industry as well as the plants -- in short
for being leaders instead of merchants.

Bridget White, Editorial Director

(847) 391-1004 *

Dear Editor,

After reviewing "Perennial Solutions" from the
October 2003 issue, I realized the photos printed in the article are not Hedera
Duck Foot. At this time the variety
pictured has not been properly identified. I send my sincere apologies to the
staff of your publication and to all of your subscribers regarding this error.
Here is the correct photo of Duck Foot, which clearly demonstrates the real
characteristics and attributes of this variety.

There appear to be different cultivars of Hedera helix style='font-style:normal'> being marketed as Duck Foot that are not actually
the true Duck Foot cultivar. It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine
when and how this blurring of cultivars has occurred. If any of your
subscribers are currently propagating or selling Duck Foot please advise them
to take any necessary measures to properly identify their plant material to
ensure that they are distributing the right variety. It is not an acceptable
practice to intentionally supply falsely identified and labeled plants to the
marketplace. The American Ivy Society has pictures of Hedera helix style='font-style:normal'> Duck Foot available on its Web site (
and can be contacted at to help determine if your Duck Foot is
indeed the correct cultivar.

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

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


Paul Pilon, Sawyer Nursery Inc.

About The Author

Bridget White is editorial director of GPN.

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