Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents

Group Title: Bulletin. New series
Title: Growing asparagus plumosus in Florida
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00014991/00001
 Material Information
Title: Growing asparagus plumosus in Florida
Series Title: Bulletin. New series
Physical Description: 24 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Stoutamire, Ralph
Florida -- Dept. of Agriculture
Publisher: State of Florida, Dept. of Agriculture
Place of Publication: Tallahassee Fla
Publication Date: 1930
Subject: Asparagus -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Foliage plant industry -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Genre: government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: by Ralph Stoutamire.
General Note: "October 1930"
General Note: Cover title.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00014991
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: ltqf - AAA7385
ltuf - AKD9402
oclc - 28571181
alephbibnum - 001962725

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Page 1
    Table of Contents
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
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Full Text

Growing Asparagus Plumosus in Florida


Bulletin No. 35

Growing Asparagus Plumosus

in Florida


NATHAN MAYO, Commissioner


New Series

October, 1930


Nathan Mayo, Commissioner of Agriculture..................Tallahassee
T. J. Brooks, Assistant Commissioner .................................Tallahassee
Phil S. Taylor, Supervising Inspector....................................Tallahassee

D istrib u tion in F lorid a ................................................................................................ 5
Construction of Sheds ........... ........................................................... 6
Propagation and Growth .......... ....................................................... 7
I r r ig a tio n ..................................................... ............... ................... 1 1
F e r tiliz in g .............. .................................. .................................................................... 1 1
In sect E n em ies .................. ............................. ............................. .................. 1 2
D is e a s e s .................... ................................................................................................................ 1 4
C old an d F rost P protection .................. ........................................................... 14
Production and Marketing ....... ....................................................... 15
Turning to Cooperative M marketing .................................................................. 17
G ra d es an d P a ck s ...................................................................... ............... ............ ....... 1 9
U. S. Standards for Asparagus Plumosus ............................................ 21
D definitions of Size T erm s ..................................................... ............................ 21
D efin ition s of G rade T erm s .................................................................................... 22

Growing Asparagus Plumosus

in. Florida
By Ralph Stoutamire
HE term "fern," as commonly used in reference to an
Horticultural enterprise mainly located in Florida, is
a mis-nomer. Asparagus plumosus nanus is one of
about 500 varieties of ornamental asparagus and is quite com-
monly called "asparagus fern," or just "ferns." But it is in
no way related to true ferns. Of the ornamental varieties of
asparagus, plumosus nanus is decidedly most popular. Aspara-
gus sprengeri comes next in general usage.
Asparagus plumosus is being grown in Florida, both for
plants sold in small sizes to the ten-cent-store trade and also
for cut sprays used by florists here and in the North with cut
flowers and for decorative purposes. The plants are grown
largely by the Boston fern growers, and that is a business quite
distinct from growing cut sprays. It now takes but a few
acres to supply the normal demand.
This business in Florida has attracted to it some of the most
intelligent tillers of the soil in the country. Perhaps it has at-
tracted too many of them, considering the present status of
the industry. A few years ago, before the acreage was as large
as it is now, some growers made handsome profits. More
recently, however, the acreage has increased faster than has
the demand, with the result that prices have tumbled. Thus
growers concluded that acreage should be kept from a further
increase. Thenceforth they declined to give out any informa-
tion which might encourage others to enter the business. As
a result a veil of mystery grew up about the industry. This
has caused the public to feel that here, at last, was an enter-
prise which held in its palm fabulous profits for those who would
engage in it. Naturally some from the public ranks could not
resist and began growing plumosus.
It would have been better for the growers and the industry
as a whole, had the truth and the whole truth been told a long
time ago. However, the average grower has thought otherwise
and has steadfastly remained silent. He is opposed to the pub-
lishing of such a bulletin as this. Fortunately he is mistaken.
The publishing of such a bulletin will do the growers more good
than harm. It is doubtful if it will do them any harm. It is
true that there are too many acres devoted to growing this crop.
All right, tell the interested public this truth. Save the man
who would plunge headlong into something which he has been
led to believe will pay him well. Also protect the man who has
already invested his money in the enterprise. The truth should
hurt nobody.


Fortunately all growers are not like this average one. Sev-
eral have assisted very much in preparing this publication.
Particular mention should be made of W. H. Schulz, Jr., and
E. F. DeBusk. The former has an extensive acreage at Auburn-
dale, while the latter is interested in plantings in Lake County.
Mr. Schulz is president of the Plumosus Growers Cooperative
Marketing Association and is perhaps the central figure and
spirit in the industry in Florida. The manuscript was read by
J. Colvin Brown, teacher of vocational agriculture in the
Barberville and Pierson schools in Volusia County and a recog-
nized authority on the subject. Mr. Brown gave several most
important suggestions and they are incorporated herein. With-
out the help of these men the preparation of this bulletin would
have been most difficult.
At the outset the point should be made that it is hard to say
anything about plumosus culture. This is due to the fact that
practices of even the best growers differ as widely as east and
west. What is done with reasonable success by one grower may
be laughed at or ridiculed by his neighbor on the opposite side

S .* *.. . - ... ..... . .- .. . . . ._ - ~ - -. ...-.

Fig 2. Looking down upon the top of a lath shed.

of the road. And perhaps this neighbor can offer substantial
reason for his difference of opinion. What may be common
procedure in Volusia County may be unknown or unpopular in
Lake County. A fertilizer that gives satisfactory results in
Palm Beach County may be entirely unsuited for Polk County
plumosus. All in all these wide differences in conditions and
variations in methods compel one who chooses to speak or write
on the industry to approach the subject with fear and trembling.


Particularly is this true, if he be one who is afraid of being
In order to avoid confusion we shall henceforth refer to the
cut sprays of Asparagus plumosus as plumosuss," as they are
known in the trade. An effort is being made among growers of
plumosus to avoid the use of the term "fern." Reasons for this
are that, in the first place, plumosus is not a fern and, second,
calling it such places it on a lower market scale.
The term fern on the cut-flower market is generally applied
to woods ferns that are gathered for only a few dollars per
thousand with no cultural costs whatever. Then when this term
is applied to plumosus, it has a general tendency to materially
cheapen it. It has been a considerable educational problem at
times to convince the northern trade that our plumosus does
not grow wild in the woods as do woods ferns.
Plumosus is a native of the mountain slopes of Africa, but
for many years it has been cultivated in America as an orna-

mental. Formerly most of
the cut sprays were grown
in northern greenhouses,
but as a supply of well-
grown sprays have become
available from lath and slat
houses in Florida and else-
where this practice has
been quite generally dis-
continued. At present there
are approximately 125 acres
of plumosus in California,
15 acres in Texas and 825
acres in Florida, all in lath
or slat houses. The acreage
has increased rapidly dur-
ing the last few years, but
it has finally shown a very
decided let-up due to lack
of proper market expan-
sions necessary to absorb
this increased acreage.
Most Florida plumosus is
grown in the following coun-
ties: Volusia, Lake, Polk,
Orange, Palm Beach, Put-
nam, Brevard, Highlands,

Fig. 3. Constructing a lath shed;
weaving the laths in with the stout
wires. (Courtesy of E. F. DeBusk.)




Pinellas. The plant does well on a variety of soils, but a sandy
loam of fine texture is to be preferred. In this type of soil a
better moisture condition is obtained than in coarse sands.
In muck or very heavy land the stems become too coarse and
the fronds too far apart. Low, poorly drained lands or soils
closely underlaid with hard-pan are to be avoided. Hilly or
rolling land which slopes to the south or southeast and which
has the protection of bodies of water is usually preferred, be-
cause such topography and proximity of water mean air drain-
age and protection against cold in winter. The farther south
one goes the less important are questions of air drainage and
water protection.
Florida sheds are almost entirely constructed of cypress. The
material used in the top usually consists of lath board strips
from half an inch to an inch in thickness. In some regions
1 x 4-inch or 1 x 3-inch slats of pecky cypress are used for the
top. The amount of sliade
material used varies in pro-
portion to the amount of
shade desired-from one-
third to three-fourths. The
most common and seem-
ingly most satisfactory
amount of shade seems to r
be about one-half, when the
top is of laths. The main -
advantage of additional .
shade is the added frost
protection it provides. Lath
shed tops are constructed
both by weaving the strips
in with wire or by nailing
to wooden supports. The
nailed construction, where
sufficiently heavy material .
has been used, has proved '
the most resistant to storms. .
Sheds must be constructed
to properly resist winds in
exposed locations. Storms '
are generally accompanied
by heavy rains which soften Fig. 4. In building a shed the outer
row of posts are tilted slightly out-
the ground and weaken the ward. The wires serve not only to
shed supports. hold the laths but also to brace the
ss entire structure. (Courtesy of E. F.
A well-constructed cypress DeBusk.)
shed is considered to have a


life of approximately eight years and depreciation should be
figured on that basis. Constructing lath or slat sheds cost from
$1,200 to $2,000 per acre, depending on cost of material and
labor, size of shed and method of operations.

Plumosus plants are started from seed which are generally
imported through seed houses. It is cheaper to purchase than
to grow. There is an advantage in home-grown seed, however,
as it can be planted several months earlier. But few growers
care to take advantage of this, due to frost risks and to the fact
that old plants on which seed are grown are a continuous source
of diseases and insect pests.

S" -- ~ -', fA X ? *

-_ _ -. ; ;-.

Fig. 5. Setting out the young seedlings. (Courtesy of E. F. DeBusk.)
Seed costs from $8 to $15 a pound which contains from 10,000
to 13,000 single seed. Such a quantity of seed usually will pro-
duce from 4,000 to 6,000 plants. Seed are planted in seedbeds
as early in spring as practicable. They take about three weeks
to germinate. They are generally kept in the seedbed at least
six months before being transferred permanently to the shades.
The number of plants used varies materially, some growers using
but 30,000 plants per acre, while others use up to three times
that number. Many angles have to be considered to determine
the number to plant, among which are soil conditions, uni-
formity of plants and the extent to which they are to be pushed
for production.
Culture is a minor consideration. A little hoeing and shal-
low plowing will answer until the plants have covered the


ground. After that keep down weeds which spring up natur-
ally. The heavier the plumosus growth the less trouble will be
had from weeds.
Older growers generally do not consider plants fully self-
supporting until they are nearly two years old. It is not con-
sidered good policy to plant a large acreage during any one
year; it is thought best to put in a small acreage and gradually
build it up to the desired extent. The reason for this is the
fact that, with market demands as selective as they are, it will
not be possible to keep customers satisfied with the general
character of sprays that come from a young planting. Although
sprays may reach the proper size they generally are very light

Fig. 6. An Interesting study within a shed. To the right are rows of very
young plumosus. In the center and to left rear are older plants by several
months. To the left is soil ready to be set to plants. (Courtesy of E. F.

in weight until the plants become more definitely established. A
young plant is inclined also to be very erratic in cropping and
will give an abundant supply one month and none the next with
the result that markets one has obtained will be lost.
It is natural for a plant, after a certain period of growth, to
want to produce seed. Plumosus plants produce their seed on
long viney sprays for which there is a limited market. When
young plants are about two years old they put almost their en-
tire effort into growing long stringy sprays which find practi-
cally no market at all in competition with that class of product
from older plants. Some growers overcome this by hoeing off
the crop from June to August, a bed at a time-bringing new


growth along at different ages. This ~nd other seasons' ad
to the hazards of entering the plumosus business on a large
scale. Practically every large planting that has been both suc-
cessful in growing and establishing a market for itself has
started out with a small unit and added to it as it developed
its market.
Upon the questions of seed and plants, seedbeds, planting seed,
and setting plants, Harold Mowry, assistant horticulturist of
the Florida Experiment Station, says in Press Bulletin 384:
"Most of the seed are grown in southern California, although
some are imported and some are grown locally. Both seed and
plants are listed for sale by numerous growers in florists'
"Seedbeds should be located on the same soil type as for
ferneries. They can be handled satisfactorily under the ordinary
slat house roof, but precaution must be taken to prevent wash-
ing. The soil should be thoroughly worked, clearing out all
roots and trash and leaving in a thorough state of tilth. There
should also be a good supply of moisture just before planting.
Ordinarily a bed 6x40 feet will be sufficient for a pound of
seed, which runs from 10,000 to 12,000 to the pound.
"In planting seed a good method is to sow them on the surface
of the soil, covering with one thickness of newspaper and then
one inch of well-rotted cow manure. The newspaper prevents
washing and tends to hold moisture. One thickness of burlap
is spread on top of the cow manure. Eighteen days are required
for germination of the seed. Remove the burlap and paper, if
the latter has not previously disintegrated, as soon as the seed
have germinated, replacing any soil that has been washed away
by rains or irrigation. Some growers prefer not to use this
method of covering but instead use a fairly thick mulch of pine
straw. This pine straw mulch has been found to be entirely
satisfactory, but if used the seed should be covered with soil
to a depth of about half an inch. If plants are to be left in the
seedbed for a season, it is better to plant the seed in rows
rather than broadcast. March is possibly the best month for seed
planting, as the resulting plants can be transplanted in July,
at which time the plants have the. advantage of the usual
rainy season.
"Even though the soil is in good condition, the plants must
not be set in dry ground. A good planting distance is 9x10
inches. This allows seven rows in a 6-foot bed and gives approxi-
mately 40,000 plants per acre. Avoid setting plants either too
deep or too shallow, but set the crown of the plant at the soil
surface. After plants are set, frequent shallow cultivation
with some hand tool is necessary."



Fig. 7. View within a young planting. Note the clean cultivation which is
given by hand. Also note the good material used for posts. This is in Lake
County where bracing against storm damage is seldom needed. These plants
are about six months old.

Fig. 8. View within a slat shed. Plants are being cut for market. Note
how the slats are laced in with the wire supports.


Florida rainfall would be ample, if properly distributed over
the year. But as we have dry periods during the fall and
spring, irrigation equipment is quite essential. This should be
of sufficient size and capacity.
Several types of irrigation equipment are in use, about
equally divided between fishtail and Skinner greenhouse types
of nozzels. Due to the fact that there is less clearance for the
sprinklers under the shed, it is necessary to use about twice the
amount of pipe necessary for irrigation in the open. Also this
pipe should be nearly twice as large as the ordinary, so as to
properly reduce friction and give the required volume. An
adequate irrigation system will cost from $300 to $700 per acre.
Just as edible asparagus is about the heaviest feeder among
truck crops, so is the ornamental variety, plumosus, an ex-
tremely heavy feeder. It is difficult to imagine the amount of
fertilizer that can and needs to be used on plumosus. Growers
are using from four to eighteen tons of high grade fertilizer per
acre a year. IMost of the better growers are applying fertilizer
at the rate of a ton per acre monthly during the growing
Fertilizer cost ranges from $400 to $1,200 per acre per year,
depending upon cost of material, size of the shed and the prac-
tices and ideas of the individual grower.
Best results are obtained from the higher grade organic am-
moniates. Unfortunately these are about twice as expensive
(per unit of plant food) as the chemical (inorganic) am-
moniates, due to the fact that much of this material is used in
stock feeds. Fertilizer is applied entirely as a top dressing;
after the plants are a little over a year old it is not possible to
cultivate and thus to work the fertilizer into the ground.
Much experimental work should be done on fertilizing plu-
mosus. Due to the heavy applications applied, it is essential
that one use only the best and most available materials. Other-
wise accumulated residue may cause toxic conditions to develop
which materially injure the quality of the crop.
So far it has not been possible to profitably use the new
synthetic fertilizers that have come on the market, because they
burn quite easily even when well diluted. Liquid plant foods
applied by irrigation so far have not proved profitable; and
they often cause burning, whereby direct applications of the
same materials do not. By test chicken and cow manure have
proved very satisfactory.


Upon the questions of care and fertilization, Harold Mowry,
Experiment Station horticulturist referred to above, says:
"As soon as plants have started growth, an application of
goat manure or high grade tankage at the rate of one to two
tons per acre is advisable. This should be followed every two
or three months with some good garden fertilizer analyzing
about 5-5-5, such as celery specials sold by various fertilizer
firms. One-half to one ton of this is usually sufficient. Fertiliz-
ers should be applied a month or so before the beginning of the
shipping season, as it takes some time to obtain best results
from such applications.
"If on lower soils the plants seem to be affected by an acid
soil condition, this may be corrected by working hardwood ashes
into the soil at the rate of a ton per acre. Do not scatter any
sort of fertilizer over plants when they are wet. Apply only
when plants are dry and then immediately brush off any which
may adhere to foliage with a whisk of some sort."

The continuous growing of the same crop of plumosus on the
same ground, as is the general practice, leads to the accumula-
tion of insect pests and fungous diseases which have to be con-
tinually combatted.
Six or seven varieties of worms periodically show up and
often destroy entire crops in spite of all practical control ef-
forts. Most of these worms appear during the rainy season when
it is most difficult to combat them.
The cotton cutworm, commonly called "fern worm" in this
state, is one of the most troublesome.
Next in importance is a budworm, the egg of which is laid on
the tips of the most select shoots as soon as they appear. The
worm, immediately upon hatching, bores a hole in which he is
well protected from poisoned baits and sprays. No matter how
small a hole he bores, that particular shoot fails to develop a
spray of commercial value.
In addition there is the ever-present cutworm that destroys
some tips throughout the entire year.
One must also be on the lookout for the regular army-worm
which is apt to make a yearly visit.
A small green worm has appeared during the last few years
and has proved difficult to combat, as it seldom is on the ground
where poisoned bait would probably control it.
There are several other worms that ordinarily feed on native
weeds but which, when they tire of the weeds, turn to and make
serious inroads on young plumosus.
In our semi-tropical climate worms multiply .Iapidly. The


life cycle of nearly all is only about 30 days, and they lay from
500 to 900 eggs. The eggs are very fertile and over 800 worms
have been counted several times from the eggs laid by a single
moth within a very few days.
The common worm-control practice has been to use poisoned
bait similar to that used for cutworms. Others have been using
liquid sprays of arsenate of lead or paris green. The former
has the objection of discoloring the foliage and the latter of
burning unless carefully used. Electric light traps are being
used by some growers to control moths, and this materially re-
duces the infestation. Six 200-watt light traps per acre seem
to be ample. Care must be taken to see that the wires are suf-
ficiently large to obtain full wattage. The cost of such wiring
is about $100 per acre.
Six-spotted mites, commonly called red spiders, are a constant
cause of trouble to plumosus, especially during dry weather.
They can be held in check through the use of either sulphur
dust or spray. In order for this dust or spray to be most ef-
fective, they should be applied when the temperature is around
85 F. Such a temperature is seldom reached during the winter,
which means that the sheds should be absolutely free of spiders
before the approach of the cooler months.
The two-spotted mite is a most troublesome pest of plumosus,
in that it is so very difficult to control. So far, however, it
has shown up in only about two growing areas in the state.
But it is native on cotton throughout the South and about forty
other plants are host to it, which means that it is apt to show
up almost anywhere at any time and become a perpetual
problem. This mite differs from most others in that it is very
resistant to sulphur spray and dust. So far the most effective
control has been derrisol, but other methods of control are being
developed and some are proving quite promising. Sprinkling
with water is very effective. -
Blister beetles, both the gray and the striped ones, have
proved quite destructive at times. Where there is only a spotted
infestation, hand-picking has been the best remedy. The best
insecticide for these beetles is calcium fluosilicate, but as it burns
plumosus foliage very readily it can not be used on real tender
foliage. Many of these beetles are killed by the use of lead
Grashoppers at times are troublesome, especially if weeds and
grass are permitted to grow to any extent. They are held down
very effectively by poisoned bait.
The garden flea-hopper occasionally is quite destructive. It
is a very small sucking insect that attacks young sprays. One
or two of tb-se can get on a spray when it is young and follow


it to maturity, with the result that it is made worthless because
of a grayish appearance on the surface and because part of the
foliage has been destroyed. This insect does not respond to
stomach poisons and so far has been controlled only by pyre-
thrum extracts as a contact spray.
Aphids are other serious pests. The ordinary green variety
usually is most troublesome. Being sucking insects, they do
about the same damage as do red spiders-suck juices from
tender tips. All types of aphids are readily controlled by ap-
plications of nicotine sulphate.
When we come to the subject of fungus we are facing a
problem on which as yet there is little known, except the fact
that each year it destroys vast amounts of otherwise good mar-
ketable plumosus. One unfortunate feature about it is that
frequently it continues to develop on sprays after they are cut
and packed for shipment. As a result whole packages may reach
market in worthless condition.
There seem to be two distinct types of fungous attacks on
plumosus. Both are commonly called rust. About all of the
common preventatives for fungous troubles have been used and
so far with little if any success. It is possible to use bordeaux
mixture only when the plants are cut back during summer for
fall crops. Ammonical solution of copper carbonate is generally
used for later applications. Care should be used to see that this
is not applied during calm muggy weather or else severe am-
monia burning will result. At best fungicides have proved only
mild preventatives.
Plumosus is tender and may be severely injured by frost. It
may withstand a temperature of 290 which is the temperature
that usually accompanies a heavy frost. But this temperature
reading must be taken on a level with the plants, instead of
several feet higher, as it ordinarily is taken. On a calm night
there may be a variation of a degree to. a foot up to six feet
above the ground. Therefore, it is not safe to rely on a ther-
mometer attached to the side of a building, or to a post. Put
it down among the plants where the frost damage occurs, if you
would be guided by it.
Heating equipment varies considerably throughout the state.
Most sheds now are being equipped with the better types of
orchard heaters of large capacity. Others are still using wood
and coke heaters. It is essential that an ample supply of heaters
be used and that a good supply of oil be available, because if


at any time the temperature falls too low the entire crop may
be lost. Frost damage varies materially, due to the nature of
the cold and also to the condition of the plants. One cold spell
may only injure the mature sprays while another may only
effect the tender shoots of immature sprays. Sufficient oil
should be kept on hand to fire four nights of nine hours each.

An acre of plumosus may reasonably be expected to produce
about 150,000 sprays in a year. Production varies, perhaps, be-
tween 75,000 and 200,000 sprays. Wholesale prices probably
range from a quarter to a cent and a half a spray, but from

r- A-? -
rurr t....a..J -

Fig. 9. Harvesting sprays on a planting at Lake Worth in Palm Beach
County. Note how the top is braced and reinforced as a protection against
high winds.

this one must deduct express charges which usually are very
Sprays are gathered by hand. The healthy and well-formed
ones are separated from the harvest and a dozen collected to-
gether in a small bunch. A half dozen of the small bunches are
tied together to form a commercial bunch. Sphagnum moss or
some other water-holding material is wrapped and tied about
the butt of the bunch. It is then ready for packing. Varying
numbers of bunches are packed in the several types and sizes of
shipping boxes or crates. Transportation should be under re-


Marketing is one of the major problems confronting the
plumosus grower today. Prior to 1930 no concerted effort had
been made toward orderly marketing. Growers were divided
roughly into two classes, those shipping most of their product
to wholesale houses and those shipping direct to retail florists.
As in all products, wholesale and commission markets are
barometric of the prices that may be expected elsewhere in the
trade. Wholesale channels have offered the best outlet, taking
care of fluctuations in crops as they come. Those who shipped
directly to retailers gave little thought to the fact that disor-

Fig. 10. This picture shows several individual sprays suitable for marketing.

derly marketing into any channels might eventually disrupt
prices and markets. The inevitable happened. When wholesale
markets were pulled down to where they were no longer profit-
able, growers sought other outlets and started after direct retail
shipments. The unfortunate feature is that when they did not
get response, they cut prices. Many growers have not been in
the business long enough to know what their shipments cost,
with the result that many today are offering their product at
prices considerably below cost, consequently hurting not only
themselves but the industry generally.


There are many features of direct-to-retail shipments which
many growers have not considered and one of them is ample
credit information. Those who have followed this business over
a period of years have not always found such information re-
liable. This is accounted for by the fact that retail florists first
take care of accounts which effect their credit most. The little
grower a thousand miles away is going to receive last and least
The grower, too, has received some abuse from wholesale
houses that have taken advantage of the fact that there are over
400 growers of plumosus from whom the wholesaler can draw.
If one grower kicks, there are plenty of others. It is fortunate,
however, that there are many reliable wholesale houses handling
plumosus that are willing to cooperate with the grower and help
him solve his problems. They have not found it easy to deal
individually with 400 growers and, at the same time, solve
problems upon which hinge the control of both supply and
quality of plumosus going into their various markets. And no
one grower owns sufficient acreage to justify his carrying on
an educational campaign to increase the use of plumosus by the
retail florist and the public. Thus arises the necessity of work-
ing together.

During the last year a cooperative marketing organization has
been formed by approximately 300 growers, representing about
that number of acres. Its purpose is to solve some of the mar-
keting problems. For the first year this organization has been
handling largely the excess product of the growers. Produc-
tion was at a low ebb during the 1929-30 winter, due to damag-
ing frosts during December. This gave the association little
to market during the winter and little opportunity to build up
market connections. The last days of February brought on a
very heavy spring crop which soon overloaded all markets and
shouldered a serious marketing problem upon this new coopera-
tive. It had to go out and search for, find and establish connec-
tions with markets already receiving more than they could han-
dle. Prices having been pulled down to an unprofitable point
for both grower and wholesaler, the wholesalers, seeing the
necessity for and at this point a gesture toward remedying such
conditions, gave the organization excellent backing and now
there are outlets in all of the leading markets.
Such an organization, however, is handicapped during its
early life, because, like a new grower, it has first to go out and
secure markets and later, through regulation of supply and
educational sale work, redevelop those markets previously dis-


organized and disrupted through hit-and-miss selling. It will
take several years for such an organization to carry out suf-
ficient educational work among its growers to induce them to
bring their plantings into bearing when needed. Otherwise it
is a surplus one month and a shortage the next.
As the supply of plumosus has become more plentiful buyers
have become more selective. So it is getting more difficult each
succeeding year to dispose of the best. Changes have been tak-


Fig. 11. One of the many ways in which plumosus is packed for shipping.
This package needs but to have the papers folded together and the top
nailed down.

ing place in the floral industry also. Formerly most of the
floral work for funerals was made up of designs using large
quantities of short sprays, sometimes secured by cutting up long
sprays. Now they are using made-up sprays of flowers which
call for medium sprays of plumosus. This is causing a decided
surplus of short and long grades and, although efforts are being
made to find new outlets for these, there seems little chance of
relief soon.


Plumosus sprays are graded both as to length and quality.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics, United States Depart-
ment of Agriculture, has for some time been working on
standard grades. These have just been announced and are
included as the last pages of this bulletin.
There are several types of packs being used by growers. Some
pack the sprays flat and others pack them in round bunches.
It is hoped that there will some day be a uniform pack estab-
lished. But this can not be done at once, due to various market
demands; markets, some having become accustomed to one pack
and others to another, pay a premium for the particular pack

DA -

.. 4 _.-, . "" . p .,

L .S .^ '. . .-^"Q "' " .. .

Fig. 12. A poor picture, photographically, but just the same it tells a big
story. Thousands of the sprays dumped here are good and would be mar-
ketable but for over-production.

There are still over 30 sizes of packing cases used, but through
efforts of crate companies the number is being gradually re-
duced to about half a dozen. These consist of the more popular
The growing of plumosus is one of the most expensive agricul-
tural enterprises in the state. Labor costs for producing and
harvesting plumosus run from around $800 to $1,500 per acre,
with a multitude of factors determining them. Some idea of
shed-construction and fertilizer costs have already been given.
Competition within the plumosus trade itself and with other
green materials sometimes used as substitutes has reduced
profits to an alarming point already, to say nothing of the


many hazards accompanying the growing of the plants. There-
fore, the man who contemplates going into this industry should
hesitate long enough to give these many angles very much
serious thought. Little if any encouragement can be held out
to the man who contemplates going into the growing of plu-
mosus at the present time.
Those who desire further information .on this subject might
write to W. H. Schulz, Jr., Box 105, Auburndale, Florida. Mr.
Schulz is not only an authority on the growing and marketing
of asparagus plumosus, but he also represents a bulk of the
growers officially, being president of the Plumosus Growers
Cooperative Marketing Association.



United States Department of Agriculture
Bureau of Agricultural Economics
U. S. Standards for Asparagus Plumosus (1930)
U. S. Fancy shall consist of bunches of well trimmed sprays
of Asparagus Plumosus which are mature and well shaped;
free from shattering, second growths, and from damage by
any cause. Unless otherwise specified, the foliage shall be of
good green color. (See size.)
In order to allow for variations incident to proper grading
and handling, not more than 10 percent, by count, of any lot
may be below the requirements of this grade, but no part of
this tolerance shall be allowed for sprays which are shattering.
U. S. No. 1 shall consist of bunches of well trimmed sprays
of Asparagus Plumosus which are mature; free from shattering,
second growths, and from damage by any cause. Not less than
60 percent, by count, of the sprays shall be fairly well shaped
and the remainder shall be not badly misshapen. Unless other-
wise specified, the foliage shall be of good green color. (See
In order to allow for variations incident to proper grading
and handling not more than 10 percent, by count, of any lot
may be below the requirements of this grade but no part of
this tolerance shall be allowed for sprays which are shattering.
U. S. Commercial shall consist of bunches of well trimmed
sprays of Asparagus Pluinosus which are mature; free from
shattering, young second growths, and from serious damage
by any cause. Unless otherwise specified, the foliage shall be
of good green color. (See size.)
In order to allow for variations incident to proper grading
and handling not more than 10 percent, by count, of any lot
may be below the requirements of this grade but no part of
this tolerance shall be allowed for sprays which are shattering.
The following terms are provided for general description of
sizes. It is not the general practice to size Plumosus uniform-
ly; therefore, lots should not be quoted as Corsage, Short,
Medium, or Long unless they have been specifically sized to
meet the specified requirements. Plumosus may be quoted as
"Short to Medium," "Short to Long," or "Medium to Long,"
in accordance with the facts:
Corsage Short Medium Long
10 to 15 in., inc. 16 to 21 in., inc. 22 to 32 in., inc. Over 33 in.


For lots which have been sized in accordance with the pro-
visions of the above classification, the following tolerance is
In order to allow for variations incident to proper sizing
not more than 20 percent, by count, of any lot may not meet
the size requirements; but not more than one-half of this toler-
ance, or 10 percent, may vary not more than 2 inches above
the maximum length or below the minimum length of the
specified size. Length shall be considered as the over-all
distance from end to end of the spray measured to the nearest
whole inch.

Fig. 13.

As used in these grades:
"Well trimmed" means that all noticeably damaged por-
tions of the foliage have been neatly removed, together with
as many of the lower side fronds as may be necessary to pro-
vide sufficient bare stem for proper tying and handling. In
the Corsage size not more than one-half of the entire spray
length may consist of bare stem; in the Short and Medium
sizes not more than one-third of the entire spray length may
consist of bare stem; in the Long size not more than 12 inches
of the entire spray length may consist of bare stem.


"Mature" means that the spray has reached that stage of
growth at which the foliage is fully developed.
"Well shaped" means that the stem of the spray is fairly
stiff and fairly erect; the portion of the stem bearing the
foliage does not show any crooked growth other than a slight
curving or the normal characteristic drooping; the bare stem
is not decidedly coiled or angular; the tip of the spray is
practically perfect; the side fronds are spaced reasonably close
together considering the length of the spray and with prac-
tically perfect tips.


Fig. 14.

"Fairly well shaped" means that the stem may show a rea-
sonable amount of coiled, angular, or vine-like growth consid-
ering the length of the spray; the tip of the spray is prac-
tically perfect, and the side fronds are spaced reasonably close
together considering the length of the spray.
"Badly misshapen" means that the stem is decidedly coiled,
or decidedly angular, or decidedly vine-like, or that the side
fronds are spaced so far apart as to cause the spray to appear


decidedly lacking in foliage. Forked, topped and stump-like
sprays shall be considered as badly misshapen when they ap-
pear decidedly lacking in foliage.
"Good green color" means that the spray foliage is a deep
lustrous green of fresh, attractive appearance.

Fig. 15.

"Damage" means any material injury to the appearance of
the spray caused by insects, disease, mechanical or other
"Serious damage" means serious injury to the appearance
of the spray caused by insects, disease, mechanical or other
June 6, 1930.

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