Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sad for Glads

Scientists track killer fungus from Hawaii to a Florida flower farm, four generations old.

imageGladiolus rust

Photo: USDA

Score one for the plant epidemiologists, and pity the Preston family, who’ve been growing gladiolus on Florida’s Gulf Coast since 1937.

After detecting Uromyces transversalis on plants in Hawaii, ag inspectors fanned out to track the culprit down. The fungus, which usually attacks hybrid gladiolus, seems to have originated in eastern and southern Africa, and has been “reported from Morocco, southern Europe (questionably from France and, Spain, possibly established in Italy, Malta, and Portugal), South America (Argentina, Brazil), Martinique, Australia, New Zealand and has recently been intercepted from Mexico.” That’s a wide swath of the world. The Hawaiian case of “gladiolus rust” sent scientists to California, and then Florida, to Manatee Floral.




Manatee red, pink and orange

Photo: Manatee Floral

Anthony Cormier reports the sad tale.

“A pathologist in Hawaii first saw the telltale signs of the rust: red pustules, blotchy spikes, a creeping fungus that attacks the leaves.” The infected glads were tracked to a shipment from the Preston family’s farm. “Weeks after their discovery, scientists confirmed the rust in Manatee and went flower-by-flower through 750 acres. Shipments were temporarily halted, and the company’s prized stock suffered a serious blow.” For not only were flowers destroyed: The farmers had “to kill numerous prized glad bulbs that form the basis of their annual crop,” bulbs developed over seventy years of work and care.

Investigators knocked on the doors of some 50 area gardeners, too, and found eight more cases of gladiolus rust. ““Fortunately, this was a small outbreak,” said Jennifer Sparks, the vice president of marketing at the Society of American Florists. “It’s been eradicated already, but there was no threat to the consumer. The problem is for the grower.”

And how.

The Prestons were pioneer nurserymen along the Gulf Coast in Florida, starting out with lemon orchards in 1892. We wish them a strong and swift recovery.

Posted by Julie on 09/27 at 10:49 AM
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