Sunday, 18 January 2009

Get virus into perspective

We have to ask the question why Canna is gaining such a reputation of being riddled with virus and so not fit to grow? This perception has been propagated by the media looking for a story. But, let us examine the real facts.

Until the late 1990's Canna was thought of as being virus-free. Then the web opened up communication, and suddenly Canna rhizomes were whizzing all over the world as everybody happily joined in the new communication freedoms that the web gave us.

Then, several large Canna collections slowly realized that virus was now endemic in the collection, and eventually the UK National Collection was destroyed as the holder could no longer live with the virus that had overcome his collection. Now, the press jumped on the Canna virus story and blew it out of all proportion. However, the whole collection was allowed to become affected, and remedial actions came too late. The other notable large collection is actively eradicating virus.

Let us look logically at the situation without any emotion. Science has discovered 5 virus types that can affect Canna, but just 3 that are seen occasionally. So, let us compare that to other plant families.

  • Dahlias have 12 known virus
  • Roses have 7 known virus types
  • Gladiolus have "more than 7 virus types", how many is that?
All of them are worse than the Canna situation, but nobody suggests that anybody should stop growing them because of virus, in fact, Cannas are one of the cleanest families as far as virus is concerned.

The time has come to get the message across that by growing Cannas in your garden, bought from a reliable source you will have less chance of virus problems than with any other major plant family!

Nobody suggest that gardeners should stop growing Dahlias, Roses or Gladiolus, so why have this orchestrated campaign against Cannas? This is just media engendered hysteria.

So, let us now look at the human species. Humans have over 150 virus's around us that we have learned to live with. The healthiest of us have a few virus in our system waiting to do us damage. Yet nobody suggests that all virus affected humans should be put on a bonfire and be exterminated.

All round, I think that Cannas deserve a recommendation as one of the healthiest plants that can be grown in the garden. There are several rules of common sense, and as long as they are followed then the honest gardener will have little trouble with growing this genus. Those rules are the same as apply to all plants:
  • Buy from a reliable source, where the seller states that they believe their produce are virus free. Never buy from garden centres in their low-price packages. They are almost, always virus affected.
  • Destroy affected specimens
I don't want to be accused of being irresponsible, but I believe that the scaremongers who raise the issue of Canna virus at every opportunity are not doing the genus a favour. We cannot eradicate it, so like humans who suffer with virus, we have to learn to live with it.

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