Two crazy tales, one serious message

Columns - From the Landscape Distributor's Perspective

I have a serious point to make. If you're interested in my opinions, read to the end.

December 21, 2009

Todd DavisI have a serious point to make. If you’re interested in my opinions, read to the end.

But first, let me numb your brain with two events here at Skinner Nurseries in Lewisville, Texas.

This summer we received a 53-foot refrigerated trailer from Florida filled with 15-, 30- and 45-gallon wax myrtles. If you’ve never seen a 53-foot trailer crammed with wax myrtles, it can best be described as a woolly mess – an absolute mass of branches, leaves, pots and soil.

A crew began unloading the trailer and, after about 10 minutes, our radio airwaves erupted. Garbled shouts in English, Spanish and Spanglish came spewing out, almost none of which you’d repeat in front of your mother.

There was a creature on that trailer.

And judging from the reaction of the crew, it wasn’t a very happy creature. After two days stuck in a trailer, I can see why.

What was it?
The thing hightailed it back into the brush before anyone could get a good look. But speculations ran wild. Was it a raccoon? A python? An alligator?

Being the voice of reason (which speaks volumes about this joint) I calmed the guys down. I gave 50-percent odds it was a cat, 25-percent odds it was an opossum and 25-percent odds “other.”

I could see how a cat could crawl into the trailer or an opossum could be hiding in a wax myrtle being loaded. For the life of me, I couldn’t see how, or why, an alligator would climb into a trailer 5 feet off the ground.

Sure enough, it was a house cat. The guys took lunch and, by the time they returned, the kitty had skedaddled (I’m guessing trying to thumb a ride back to Daytona Beach).

Eggs in pots
A few weeks later a 65-galllon East Palatka holly blew over. It was in a fabric Cool Ring pot and the bottom fell out of it.

What this exposed had the radios chattering again. At the bottom of the root ball was about a dozen soft, oblong reptile eggs about the size of chicken eggs.

Once again, speculations went wild. Turtle eggs? Alligator eggs? Hey, if an alligator can crawl into a trailer, why can’t it lay eggs in the bottom of a 65-gallon pot?

An employee took them and in about a month they hatched into slithering Texas rat snakes. Can you imagine what would have happened if they’d hatched when that East Palatka was loaded on a customer’s trailer?

In a round-about way, these two stories get me to my promised point. Here we go:

Nursery folks are really lucky we’re allowed to ship plants around the country as freely as we are. Let’s face it, we have a lot of hitchhikers on our crops – weeds, microbes, insects, cats and (according to local legend) alligators.

Yes, there are plenty of quarantine regulations to obey. But it could be a lot worse.

Believe me, if certain environmental groups decided to really raise a stink about this, we’d be in big, big trouble.  Thank your lucky stars that we’re a multi-billion-dollar industry, and can flex our muscles in front of lawmakers. And thank the stars again we have the right people at ANLA and state organizations on top of this stuff.

Let’s manage these issues ourselves and take all reasonable precautions that we aren’t moving troublesome pests along with our crops. And let’s be responsible if we do accidently ship something problematic.

If not, the regulators are going to jump all over us. The cat, as they say, will be out of the bag.