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The Scoop

Gardening news, notes and trivia for this week.
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  • Fraudulent ferns?

  • Lawn Care Guru website

  • National Buffalo Garden Festival

Fraudulent ferns?

DNA testing of garden ferns sold at plant nurseries in North Carolina, Texas and California has found that plants marketed as American natives may actually be exotic species from other parts of the globe.

A team of North Carolina researchers suspected a fern sold in commercial nurseries might not be what the labels said it was, so they took a specimen to the lab to analyze its DNA. When they pasted the DNA sequence of three of the plant's genes into an online database, they discovered that what had been labeled as Wright’s lip fern (Cheilanthes wrightii), an American native popular in rock gardens and xeriscapes, was in fact a bristle cloak fern (C. distans), a distant relative from Australia.

“Probably 50 percent of the plants I’ve collected from botanical gardens and greenhouses were incorrectly identified,” said Eric Schuettpelz, a post-doctoral fellow at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in Durham.

“Nomenclature mix-ups in the nursery industry are frequent in all plants, ferns included,” said co-author Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery. Most nurseries are run by growers and retailers, not taxonomists, Avent said. Ferns are difficult to monitor because they’re tricky to tell apart. They species are hard to contain in the close quarters of a greenhouse, where their spores can drift into neighboring pots. “After a while, who’s to know whether a plant is what the label says it is?” said lead author Kathleen Pryer, associate professor of biology at Duke University.

Most mix-ups happen when plants are passed from one grower to the next without good labeling, Avent said. “But some mix-ups occur when nurseries intentionally change the tags to sell a plant, especially when they have requests for a similar species or cultivar.”

For those in the business of buying and selling exotic plants, the technique used in this study, dubbed DNA barcoding, could help identify harmful or invasive species or prevent the sale of species which are rare or endangered. “This might eventually be able to help prevent people from taking things out of countries illegally,” said Pryer.

Read more about the study from NESCent.

Lawn Care Guru website

If you're in the market for a new lawn mower, you might want to check out Sears's new Yard Guru website. You can enter some specifics about your lawn and your preferences, and it will recommend some mowers that suit your needs. You can also compare prices and features of the mowers available from Sears, as well as compare their prices from other retailers. Check it out at

National Buffalo Garden Festival set for June 18 to July 25

You may have heard of Garden Walk Buffalo. This year the New York city is celebrating the first annual National Buffalo Garden Festival. Running from June 18 to July 25, the festival includes garden tours, sales and special events throughout the city. It culminates in Garden Walk Buffalo, which opens over 300 private gardens to the public, on the weekend of the 24th. For more info see