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Circular 1268 (ENH844) Florida/Holland/Israeli Ruscus Production and Use1 Robert H. Stamps2 1. This document is Circular 1268 (ENH844), one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Revised November 2001. Visit the EDIS Web Site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. 2. Robert H. Stamps, Professor of Environmental Horticulture and Extension Cut Foliage Specialist, Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, Apopka, FL. Note: Mention of a commercial or proprietary product or chemical does not constitute a recommendation or warranty of the product by the author or the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, nor does it imply its approval to the exclusion of other products that may also be suitable. Products should be used according to label instructions and safety equipment required on the label and by federal or state law should be employed. Users should avoid the use of chemicals under conditions that could lead to ground water contamination. Pesticide registrations may change so it is the responsibility of the user to ascertain if a pesticide is registered by the appropriate state and federal agencies for an intended use.All chemicals should be used in accordance with directions on the manufacturer's label. The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin. For information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service office. Florida Cooperative Extension Service/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences/University of Florida/Christine Taylor Waddill, Dean. FAMILY: Liliaceae GENUS: Ruscus SPECIFIC EPITHET: hypophyllum Figure 1. Ruscus hypophyllum is an extremely durable cut foliage crop. Credits: Robert H. Stamps Ruscus hypophyllum (Figure 1) is called Florida/Holland/Israeli ruscus because it is produced commercially in Florida and Israel (also Columbia and the Middle East) and sold at the Dutch auctions. This durable member of the lily family is an evergreen semiwoody ground cover native principally to northwest Africa, but is probably also native to southern Spain. R. hypophyllum, which is related to the numerous Asparagus species that are also popular cut foliages, has semi-glossy, dark green, thornless "leaves" that are actually stem modifications called cladodes or cladophylls. R. hypophyllum has upright, branchless stems, up to 3 feet [1 m] in height, and elliptic to ovate cladodes, up to about 3 inches [8 cm] long and 1 1/2 inches [4 cm] wide in size. R. hypophyllum is sometimes incorrectly labeled as R. aculeatus (Butcher's broom), which has smaller, spiny cladodes and freely branched stems. R. hypophyllum is typically dioecious (plants are unisexual, with separate male and female plants). Flowers are produced in the center of the cladodes and may be on the upper and lower surfaces. The fruits (berries) are bright red and about 1/2 inch [1.3 cm] long.
Florida/Holland/Israeli Ruscus Production and Use 2 Floral Design, Landscape and Interiorscape Uses Floral Design Use R. hypophyllum stems make good line (linear) materials in floral arrangements. In addition, R. hypophyllum can be used as a filler element and as a Christmas green, especially if its red berries are present. R. hypophyllum can be used dried or fresh and is extremely durablefor example, stems harvested in mid-December and stored at 40F [4C] have been successfully used in arrangements as long as five months later. Israeli ruscus foliage is available year-round. Landscape Use R. hypophyllum can be used as a ground cover in the landscape, especially in shaded locations. Other species of ruscus (R. aculeatus, R. hypoglossum) can tolerate competition from tree roots and drought, and experience in Florida indicates that R. hypophyllum is similarly tolerant. Interiorscape Use R. hypophyllum has potential for use as an indoor ground cover, but research is needed to determine optimum interior light and fertilizer levels for this crop. General Cultural Requirements R. hypophyllum can be grown successfully in containers or in the ground; however, production in pots seems to reduce the incidence of bacterial leaf spot caused by Pseudomonas andropogonis (see diseases, bacterial, in common cultural problems section). Fertilizer: In an experiment at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center Apopka, plants growing in 8-inch [20-cm] containers responded with increased stem numbers and total stem weight as fertilizer rates were increased. The 17N-6P2O5-12K2O [17N-2.6P-10K] fertilizer (Sierra, Grace/Sierra, Milpitas, CA 95035) was applied every two months at 0.18, 0.35 or 0.53 ounce [5, 10, or 15 grams] per container. Stem production was increased 19% and 32%, and total weight of stems was increased 24% and 37% by the medium and high fertilizer rates, respectively, compared to the low rate. However, average stem weight and vase life were not affected by fertilizer rate. Light: R. hypophyllum does best under shade. Heavy shade produces fewer but longer stems, with larger cladodes than lower shade. Ten percent more stems were produced under 50% compared to 70% shade, but the average weight of stems produced under the two shade levels was not different. Planting: R. hypophyllum plants appear to transplant well if they are of sufficient size at the time of planting. Israeli extension agents suggest that plants should be grown in 6-inch [15-cm] pots before they are planted in the field. Limited observations in Florida indicate that small plants transplanted into the field generally develop quite slowly, although they do become established and eventually grow into producing plants. Propagation: Traditionally, asexual propagation of R. hypophyllum has been by division of the underground rhizome. Vegetative buds on the rhizomes will develop into plants and this method of propagation helps assure that propagules will have the characteristics of the original plant. More recently, this crop has been propagated using tissue culture, a newer asexual method. R. hypophyllum can also be propagated by seed. Soil: R. hypophyllum thrives in moist, loamy soils but tolerates a wide variety of soils and soilless growing media. In an experiment conducted under shadehouse conditions, yield (on a fresh weight basis) was 12% higher from pots containing a Florida sedge peat:builders' sand mix (3:1, volume:volume) than from those containing a commercial soilless container mix. The difference in yield may have been due to the greater water-holding capacity of the peat:sand mix and might have been eliminated if watering had been more frequent for plants in the commercial mix. Temperature: R. hypophyllum will tolerate a wide range of temperatures; however, immature stems may be damaged if temperatures drop below freezing and mature stems may be injured during severe freezes. In addition, R. hypophyllum will not
Florida/Holland/Israeli Ruscus Production and Use 3 produce new stems if it does not experience cool temperatures in the fall or winter. Water: Ruscus (at least R. aculeatus and R. hypoglossum) are reportedly tolerant of both wet and dry conditions. Common Cultural Problems Pests: Undoubtedly this list will increase with time as more and more of this crop is produced in Florida. Insects: Scale (Pseudaulacaspis cockerelli, formerly known as Phenascaspis natalensis and Phenacaspis cockerelli, has been identified as feeding on R. hypophyllum in Florida (Figure 2). According to Florida Department of Plant Industry records, other scale species Aspidiotus spinosus, Chrysomphalus aonidum, and Ischmaspis longirostris have been identified on other species of ruscus and closely related genera.) Figure 2. False oleander scale (Pseudaulacaspis cockerelli), also known as magnolia white scale, on Florida/Israeli/Holland ruscus. Credits: Lance S. Osborne Symptoms False oleander scale, a.k.a. magnolia white scale, feeds on ruscus cladodes and stems. Adult females are white, waxy and pear-shaped, with the narrow end brown. Preadults are oval and yellowish to orangish. Adults often line up along or near major veins in the cladodes. Control Systemic materials are preferred because it is difficult to penetrate the waxy outer coating of the scale. Few materials control false oleander scale and fewer still are labeled for use on ruscus. Interestingly, oil and soap sprays have been effective if applied properly and repeatedly. Some biological control agents, e.g. fungi, that have been tested for control of this pest have not been able to force their way under the waxy armor. The following notes provide information from other countries regarding insect interactions with plants closely related to R. hypophyllum. This knowledge may be useful in the future. Note 1: In a study designed to find potential insecticides for controlling the caterpillar (larvae) of Spodoptera littoralis, it was found that R. hypoglossum was highly toxic to S. littoralis. In fact, mortality of larvae feeding on this Ruscus species, which is closely related to R. hypophyllum, was 100%. S. littoralis is related to the beet armyworm (S. exigua), a common and difficult to control pest on many crops in Florida. Note 2: The black vine weevil (Otiorrhyncus sulcatus), which does not presently occur in Florida, is a troublesome pest of Italian "ruscus" (Danae racemosa) in Italy. It was found that two commonly used insecticides with ornamental labeling, acephate (Orthene) and chlorpyrifos (Dursban), provided effective control of this insect pest. Diseases: Bacterial Leaf spot/blight (Pseudomonas andropogonis) Symptoms Small, water-soaked spots start on cladodes and stems and rapidly expand into large areas up to 1/2-inch [1.2 cm] in diameter; spots are reddish brown with water-soaked, frequently chlorotic margins (Figure 3). Control Keep foliage as dry as possible by using cultural practices that avoid the use of overhead irrigation, irrigate when the foliage will dry most rapidly, and protect the foliage from rain. Compared to growing plants in the ground, production of this crop in containers seems to reduce, but not eliminate,
Florida/Holland/Israeli Ruscus Production and Use 4 Figure 3. Bacterial leaf spot caused by Pseudomonas andropogonis starts as small, water-soaked spots that can rapidly expand to large reddish-brown blemishes with water-soaked, chlorotic margins. Credits: Robert H. Stamps Figure 4. Copper compounds had no effect on percentage of R. hypophyllum stems damaged by Pseudomonas andropogonis. Graph bars sharing any letter are not different (P. = 0.05). the incidence of this disease. In addition, copper-containing compounds and antibiotic sprays may be of some help. However, in a recent test of five copper compounds, the percentage of stems made unsalable due to damage by P. andropogonis was the same for copper-treated plants as for untreated control plants (Figure 4). In addition, this pathogen and the crop (R. hypophyllum) are not on the label of many of these products. Growers should be aware that the repeated use of copper compounds may lead to high enough levels in the soil to damage the plants. Fungal Leaf spot (Cercospora spp.) Symptoms Water-soaked lesions, irregular necrotic spots. Control Keep foliage as dry as possible by using cultural practices that avoid the use of overhead irrigation, irrigate when the foliage will dry most rapidly, and protect the foliage from rain. Sanitation, i.e. removal of infected foliage, may help. In addition, fungicides labeled for controlling Cercospora may be helpful. Harvesting and Postharvest Considerations Harvesting and Handling: Ruscus stems are harvested with clippers and are frequently bundled ten per bunch using rubber bands. Stem lengths are generally in the range from 30 to 45 cm [10 to 18 inches]; however, longer stems can be produced if desired. Yield: Yield estimates from Israeli extension personnel have been as high as 1,482,600 stemsha-1yr-1 [600,000 stems/acre/year]. However, data from Israel put that number at 681,818 stemsha-1yr-1[276,500 stems/acre/year]. This average, of course, would include both acreage not yet in full production and some that was old and possibly exhibiting declining production. Storage and Shipping: Restorage and shipping of this crop is encouraged. Stems will hold for months in waxed corrugated fiberboard containers at temperatures around 4C [40F]. Vase life: Typically, stems of Israeli ruscus and closely related species will last in arrangements for a month or longer. Combinations of 8-hydroxyquinoline citrate (a microorganism
Florida/Holland/Israeli Ruscus Production and Use 5 inhibitor) and sucrose (an energy source) used as holding solutions for R. hypoglossum have been shown to be of little or no benefit. In addition, the use of either one alone has been demonstrated to decrease vase life of R. hypoglossum. Selected references Chase, A. R. and R. H. Stamps. 1992. Copper compounds do not provide adequate Pseudomonas control on Ruscus. Univ. of Fla., Inst. of Food and Agr. Sci., Fla. Coop. Ext. Serv., Cut Foliage Grower 7(5/6):13. Dekle, G. W. 1976. Arthropods of Florida and Neighboring Land Areas, Volume 3 Florida Armored Scale Insects, Fla. Dept. of Agr. and Consumer Serv. Div. of Plant Industry. p. 136. Malter, A. 1991. Israeli flower production. FloraCulture International 1(2):24. Moretz, J. 1985. Know your foliages popular foliages for design work. Florists' Review 176(4567):24. Nooh, A. E., T. El-Kiey and M. Khattab. 1986. Studies on the keeping quality of cut green Ruscus hypoglossum L. and Nephrolepis exaltata Schott. Acta Horticulturae 181:223. Rao, V. G. and A. S. Patil. 1972. Cercospora ruscicola sp. nov. from India. Trans. Br. Mycol. Soc. 58(3):522. Stamps, R. H. and C. C. Boone. 1992. Effects of growing medium, shade level and fertilizer rate on cladode color, yield and vase life of Ruscus hypophyllum. J. Environ. Hort. 10(3):150. Sunset Books. 1979. J. R. Dunmire (ed.). Sunset New Western Garden Book, 4th edition. Lane Publishing Co., Menlo Park, CA. p. 456.