Mail Order Fakes And Realities

Succulent cuttings are readily available online.

Sea-Monkeys are one of the most famous of mail order scams. Their original $0.49 price was not cheap for children who made the first purchases in 1957. They were nothing like their playful portrayals in comic book advertisements. They were minuscule brine shrimp who were incapable of building castles, playing tennis, or even just smiling for a camera.

Nonetheless, Sea-Monkeys were lucrative for their enterprising inventor. For many such capitalists, profit is the priority. It is no different for the many mail order scams that involve seed and plants. They range from the rare monkey face orchid to multicolored tomatoes. Consumers get either nothing or random seed or plants that are nothing like they expect.

Most mail order scams that involve seed or plants are on e-commerce sites. They mostly include popular buzz words such as ‘rare’, ‘organic’ and ‘bonsai’, even in regard to plants that are not conducive to bonsai culture. Associated illustrations are obviously faked, but somehow convince enough consumers to sustain their deceptive mail order exploitation.

Fortunately, the vast majority of online seed and plant suppliers are very trustworthy and reputable. They provide precisely what they claim to provide. Their commodities become available prior to the season that is best for delivery. Then, delivery happens early during the regionally best season for planting. Products are not marketable out of their seasons.

Many seed catalogs and plant catalogs enact more than seasonal or climactic limitations to their sales. For various reasons, particular species are not admissible within particular states or counties. Some may be potential vectors of disease. Some may be too likely to naturalize and interfere with natural ecosystems. Species limitations are fortunately rare.

Much of the seeds and plants that are available from e-commerce sites such as eBay are from the home gardens of those selling them. The sellers are generally quite trustworthy and reputable, but can make mistakes. It is easy to misidentify some species, especially by common names. Also, such sellers are very often unaware of marketability limitations.


Catalog Shopping Has Certain Limits

70621thumbThe temptation is unbearable. The catalog of Adelman Peony Gardens, either in print or at, shows how spectacular peony blossoms can be. There are one hundred and seventy-eight exquisite pictures of the cultivars available for mail order on online purchase. The only problem, and it is a big one, is that peonies are recommended for USDA Zones 2 through 8.

So maybe some of us in Zone 9 might conveniently neglect to read that part of the catalog. Maybe some of us believe that since peonies can not read that part of the catalog, they might not mind getting cheated out of the winter chill they need for good dormancy. Somehow, many of us are able to grow peonies where they have no business growing. Perhaps we should keep that a secret.

So many more plants are available online and by mail order than can be found in nurseries. Most of them are appropriate to local climates. Some are not. Catalogs from the best nurseries are careful to make that distinction obvious by describing what zones their plants are recommended for. That can be a lot of information for nurseries that have many different types of plants available.

Plants that have potential to transmit disease or become invasive might be banned from certain states. Nurseries can send plants to inappropriate climate zones for clients who really want them, but can not send plants to states where they are banned. Black elderberry plants can not be imported into California. Only black elderberry plants that were grown in California can be sold here.

Unfortunately, many plants are sold online without any regulation whatsoever. Anyone can sell any extra seeds, seedlings or cuttings online, whether or not they actually know what the seeds or plants are. Some plants are not really what they were described as when sold. Many others get sent to climates where they will not be happy, and might not even survive. Worst of all, there is serious potential for plants to be vectors of disease and insect pathogens, or to become invasive in formerly uninfested regions.