Table of Contents
Lamberts, M. 1993. New horticultural crops for the
southeastern United States. p. 82-92. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.),
New crops. Wiley, New York.
New Horticultural Crops for the Southeastern United States
- FRUIT CROPS
- South Carolina
- VEGETABLE CROPS
- North Carolina
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- Table 1
- Table 2
- Table 3
There are many reasons for the upsurge in interest in new horticultural crops.
One industry expert (Cook 1990) reported that during the period between 1978
and 1989, consumption of fresh produce in the United States expanded 23%. The
retail produce industry is now worth $32 billion. While the aging of American
consumers also is a factor which can lead to overall reduced food purchases, it
also has the potential for proportional increases in fresh fruit and vegetable
consumption. Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 consume 39% more fresh
fruit and 34% more fresh vegetables than the national average. As consumers
move into their peak income-earning years, they purchase more high-value
products and look for greater diversity.
According to Manning (1990), the American produce industry has been riding the
crest of a powerful demographic wave which will flatten by the year 2000.
Manning predicts that although the nutritional appeal of fresh fruits and
vegetables will continue, health options for consumers will increase; growers
will need to create more demand and retailers will need to be convinced that
consumers will pay more for produce before raising wholesale prices.
Cook (1990) reports that the growth in ethnic populations also contributes to
demand for product diversity within the produce department. Foods previously
considered ethnic or regional in nature increasingly are being consumed by a
broader portion of the population. This helps explain why shipments of
Oriental, Mexican, tropical, and exotic produce accounted for about 5% of fresh
vegetable shipments in 1988, whereas in previous years the volumes had been too
low to track. Some of the states with large populations, such as California,
expect to have minority ethnic groups make up almost half the population by the
year 2000. This will lead to an increase in fresh produce consumption and will
continue to broaden the product mix within the produce category.
One of the challenges that will come with meeting these demands is the need for
information on production, packaging, temperature management, storage,
merchandising, preparation, and other handling requirements. These require
changes, not only for researchers and on the farm, but also in the distribution
chain since there is a lack of knowledge about proper handling of specialty
With these in mind, this paper will examine steps the Southeastern states have
taken in meeting these projected needs for new horticultural crops. The paper
has been divided into sections on fruit crops (Table 1), vegetable crops (Table 2), and
ornamentals (Table 3). A table summarizing the new crops within each category follows
the state by state discussion. Work within each section has been separated by
state. Studies carried out in a particular state are based on information
supplied by state extension specialists and other researchers. Some of the
information was obtained through telephone conversations, with the remainder
gathered through correspondence and a survey.
An active breeding, evaluation, and development program is underway for Chinese
chestnuts, a potential new nut crop for the South. Research is needed on
mechanical harvesting and on postharvest handling. Other fruits which are part
of active evaluation programs in Alabama are kiwifruit, Asian and American
pears, Oriental persimmon, and pomegranate. Researchers report the need to
identify adapted seedlings.
Other new fruit crops which are in the experimental stage include mayhaws, and
pineapple guava, or feijoa. Of these, mayhaw seems to have some promise, while
pineapple guava or feijoa has problems at present since it sustains winter
injury and has no known pollinators in Alabama.
Most of the new fruit crops being grown in Florida are discussed in much
greater detail elsewhere in this volume by J. Crane (1993). They include
carambola (240 ha), atemoya (80 ha), passion fruit (40 ha), and sugar apple (30
ha). All are commercially important. Hectareage is increasing for all but
sugar apple, though demand for this fruit is still good. For carambola,
current research includes field trials on fertilizer, pruning, and cultivar
evaluation. 'Arkin' is the dominant carambola cultivar; 'Gefner' is the
dominant atemoya cultivar. Current research includes field trials on tree
training and pruning and laboratory trials on seed germination. For passion
fruit, purples and reds are the most popular types. Research efforts are
directed towards pesticide clearance trials. Research on sugar apples is
limited to laboratory trials on seed germination.
There are about 40 ha of Asian pears being grown on an experimental basis.
Mayhaws are also part of an active research program (Krewer et al. 1990; Payne
and Krewer 1990; Payne et al. 1990). Some plants are wild, others are
cultivated, but interest is increasing on the part of both researchers and
industry. Oriental persimmons are being screened, with some success, for cold
hardiness. Georgia currently has 65,000 bushes of Southern highbush blueberry,
and this number is increasing. Florida bunch grapes, figs, jujubes, pawpaw,
plums, and pomegranate are other potential new fruit crops that we may see in
the future in Georgia (Krewer et al. 1990; G.W. Krewer pers. commun.).
Both feijoa and kiwifruit have been tried, but neither shows much promise in
Georgia (Krewer et al. 1986). There are currently about 5 ha of commercial
kiwifruit, but this is declining since it is difficult to grow commercially.
There is interest in Southern highbush blueberries, brambles, and Asian pears.
Trials are underway with pawpaws.
Studies are underway with Southern highbush blueberries (La. Coop. Ext. Serv.
1992) and mayhaw. There are currently 4 to 10 ha in mayhaws with an increase
likely; some wild plants are being harvested as well. Mayhaws are currently
being considered for processing. Trials are underway with figs and persimmons.
Only Asian pears are under trial.
Potential new fruit crops include kiwifruit, Asian pears, and pawpaws. Of
these, kiwifruit appear marginal.
New fruit crops include brambles and both Southern highbush and rabbiteye
blueberries (A. Rutledge pers. commun.).
Cultivar trials are underway with Asian pear and apricots. There are currently
24 to 30 ha of Asian pears, but less than 4 ha of apricots (R. Marini pers.
Trials are underway with calabaza, seedless watermelon, asparagus, bulb onions,
Japanese muskmelons, rhubarb, and leeks (D. Maynard pers. commun.). Florida
growers are producing several Oriental vegetables commercially. These include
Chinese okra or angled luffa, lauki or bottle gourd, smooth luffa, tindora or
ivy gourd, very small amounts of parvar or pointed gourd, guar or cluster bean
as a green shell bean, hyacinth or lablab bean, yard-long or asparagus beans,
winged bean, and pea and Thai eggplants (Lamberts 1990). There is very little
research on these latter commodities except for limited surveys of diseases and
insects. Most of the initiative for these new vegetables comes from the
Several new vegetable crops have been tried with varying degrees of success.
The main new vegetable produced today is collards, which is now at 3,645 ha and
expanding. It is grown as a second crop after peanuts and so is a specialty
crop for those growers. Green onion area has also expanded, with 81 to 101 ha
planted in recent years. The third most popular new vegetable is hot peppers,
primarily 'Piquin' and jalapeño types; the different colored bell
peppers are also being grown. The fourth most popular is English peas, grown
as an early crop which can take advantage of a market window (W. McLauren pers.
There is limited production of pumpkins of various types for roadside stands
and pick-your-own. There is limited area in beets, some Oriental vegetables,
including lemon grass, and asparagus. Other new vegetable crops for Georgia
include ginseng, fresh cut herbs, green peanuts for the early market, and husk
tomatoes for the Mexican market in Atlanta. Radicchio was tried, but problems
with marketing have resulted in declining production; a recovery is not
anticipated (W. McLauren pers. commun.).
Commercial production of Oriental vegetables such as napa, bok choy, and
daikons is underway and expected to increase with a growing ethnic population.
Other new vegetables under trial include staked and processing tomatoes and
sugar enhanced and super-sweet sweet corn. Various mushrooms are currently
being tried. The mushroom industry is very competitive and in a state of flux
(D. Ingram pers. commun.).
The early phase of domestication of apios is underway (Reynolds et al. 1990).
Researchers think it will be productive for home gardens, but there is a need
to commercialize this crop, which will require work on marketing. Apios will
most likely be used as a processed product, and could also be developed as a
high protein food, possibly for developing countries, or as a health food.
Apios is highly productive and harvesting can be mechanized. The tubers have a
taste similar to a combination of boiled potatoes and boiled peanuts. Apios is
mealier than potato and chips well. Other new vegetables being tried some on a
commercial basis, include Shiitake and oyster (pleurotis) mushrooms, tomatillo,
and greenhouse cucumbers (Koske 1989; W. Blackmon pers. commun.).
An increase in Oriental vegetable production is underway (B. Quebedeaux pers.
Little is being done with new vegetables. There is interest in two cultivars
of hot pepper, 'Mississippi hot' and 'Passion', the latter from Japan, and
'Little Fingers' eggplant. There is some commercial mushroom production of
shiitake and pleurotis types. Paste tomatoes are a new crop for Mississippi
(M. Burnham pers. commun.).
Several new vegetables are being tried, including intermediate day dry bulb
onions. Researchers have evaluated 90 to 100 cultivars for bolt tolerance and
winter survival with some success. Onions are planted in October and harvested
June or July; there were 120 ha in 1990-91. Broccoli is usually planted in
August-September as a fall crop and harvested from mid-September through
Christmas. Spring plantings are sown in late February-March and harvested in
May. This is seen as an alternative to a potential increase in California
Production of ethnic vegetables is increasing, especially for Oriental
vegetables such as Chinese cabbage (napa and bok choy), melons, greens, and
daikon; and ethnic peppers such as jalapeño, ancho, Anaheim, and other
chiles. The major problem for scientists working with these items is the lack
of published literature in English. This is one of the reasons the same item
may be marketed under a variety of different ethnic names. There have been
some changes in specialty lettuce cultivars which allow for an extra day or two
of shelf life (D. Sanders pers. commun.). There is some herb production,
including ginseng, in the mountainous areas of North Carolina, Georgia, and
Tennessee. Shiitake mushrooms are also being evaluated.
Limited cultivar evaluation trials have been carried out with Chinese cabbage
for spring and fall production since 1989. Researchers have recommended fall
production since many cultivars, especially from Group Pekinensis bolt under
spring conditions. Some cultivars from Group Chinensis are quite susceptible
to Fusarium spp. Yield and quality for both Groups have generally been
acceptable (D. Coffey pers. commun.).
Some domestic and some wild ginseng is being produced; nitrogen and copper
evaluations on farm have been carried out for this crop. Both cherry and paste
tomatoes are being produced (A. Rutledge pers. commun.).
Broccoli is a small, but growing industry with a bright future. Cauliflower
appears to have excellent potential for mountainous areas at elevations of
1,800 m, but it is not yet grown commercially (C. O'Dell pers. commun.). Other
vegetables include storage cabbage, Belgian endive, elephant garlic, heat
tolerant head lettuce, exotic mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage,
medicinal herbs such as American ginseng and goldenseal, golden-fleshed
potatoes, and commercial production of organic vegetables (G. Welbaum pers.
The focus of work on new ornamental crops is primarily on means of adapting
woody plants from the temperate zone for interior environments (Keever et al.
New crops include anthuriums for foliage and flowering and new cut foliage and
bedding plants, and Calathea spp., amaryllis, and caladium (R. Henley
Various verbenas such as native moss verbena, are under investigation for
roadside plantings in southern and coastal Georgia and for commercial
landscapes. Flower colors range from white, pink, and pale lilac to darker
shades. Verbena is drought tolerant and requires low maintenance. Vervain,
another native, has primarily dark royal purple flowers and can be used for
roadsides. It has been in cultivation for some time. The cultivar in the
trade is 'Polaris' with pale lilac-blue flowers. Rose verbena or creeping
vervain, an old species, is widely used in landscapes because of its hardiness
and drought tolerance. The most common cultivar is 'Rosea' or 'Roseum' which
has pinkish rose flowers; additional colors are available. Various vincas are
now heavily used in landscaping as well. Use of gomphrena, a tough, hardy
plant, is increasing in landscapes (J. Lewis pers. commun.)
Research is underway in godetia or satin flower, including trials on field
production and greenhouse trials (Anderson 1990a,b,c; Anderson and Hartley
1990; Anderson et al. 1991). This crop requires cool, high light conditions
and so probably will not be a major cutflower in the Southeastern United
States. Greenhouse trials are continuing with velvet sage which shows good
potential as a greenhouse cutflower grown under the same conditions as a 7-week
chrysanthemum. Other greenhouse trials are being conducted with yarrow, which
has good potential as a greenhouse cutflower. It requires three weeks in
propagation plus six weeks in the greenhouse under 6 h supplemental high
intensity daylight (R. Anderson pers. commun.).
Ornamentals are the fastest growing part of the agricultural industry in
Maryland, with a 10% increase annually over the past 5 years. In the
metropolitan areas, there has been an increase in direct marketing of cut
flowers through roadside stand, farmers markets, and as an add-on at
pick-your-own operations. Cut flowers is a generic term which is applied to
any dried material such as everlastings, yarrow, and statice, and to anything
that can be cut which will last 5 days.
There is a new market for bedding plant material from 4 July to the first
frost. Some of the production now includes greenhouse production of
containerized annuals which are sold in various pot sizes throughout the
season. Flowering cabbage and flowering kale are used for fall color.
The market for woody ornamentals is exploding, particularly with specialty
trees and shrubs and clonal selection of unique cultivars such as Japanese
maple, but anything unusual is being sought (Healy 1986, 1989; Healy and Aker
1988a,b; Healy and Espinosa 1988a,b; Healy and Graper 1987, 1989; Healy and
Wilkins 1985; Healy et al. 1990).
Research on flowering plants is focused on orange browallia, pink trumpet vine,
and blue daze. Orange browallia shows excellent potential as a flowering
potted plant and a hanging basket. Pink trumpet vine has potential as a
flowering hanging basket; it has very fragrant pink flowers. The major problem
with this crop is bud and leaf drop with sudden changes in environment. Blue
daze is a newly introduced bedding plant and hanging basket plant which has
blue flowers (D. Bailey pers. commun.).
Studies are underway with new cultivars of holly and crape myrtle and heat
tolerant shade trees (A. King pers. commun.).
Research is being carried out on bulbs such as tulips and daffodils, on nursery
crops, and on dried flowers (G. Welbaum pers. commun.).
The new fruit crop being tried in the greatest number of states was the Asian
pear (Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, South Carolina, and Virginia). Southern
highbush blueberry was second in importance (Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and
Tennessee). Four fruit crops are being evaluated in at least three states:
mayhaw and persimmons (Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana), kiwifruit (Alabama,
South Carolina, and Georgia), and pawpaw (Georgia, Kentucky, and South
Carolina). Brambles are being tested in Kentucky and Tennessee; passion fruit
is under trial in Alabama and Florida.
Oriental vegetables are being grown in six states (Florida, Georgia, Kentucky,
Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia). Ginseng is being grown in five states
(Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia). Mushrooms
(shiitake, oyster, and various types) are being tried in Florida, Kentucky,
Louisiana, and Mississippi. Four states are growing either hot or colored bell
peppers (Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and North Carolina). Onions and herbs
are being evaluated in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina; tomatoes in
Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Broccoli, lettuce, sugar enhanced and
super-sweet sweet corn, asparagus, pumpkin/calabaza, and husk tomato
(tomatillo) are being evaluated in at least two states each.
In contrast, there is little commonality for ornamentals where unique crops are
being evaluated in each state. At present, there is no one single crop which
shows promise to become the South's kiwifruit. For fruits, a number of crops
such as Asian pear, Southern highbush blueberry, mayhaw, persimmon, pawpaw, and
the subtropical fruits of Southern Florida all have potential, though most
likely as combined enterprises rather than as sole crops. For vegetables, this
same trend of a combination of crops is more likely than any one single crop.
Oriental vegetables, which is a very broad area, are becoming more popular.
Other crops with promise include ginseng, various mushrooms, and peppers, both
hot types and colored bells. With few exceptions, state programs or local
growers or a combination of the two, are interested in expanding the
horticultural horizons of the South beyond the crops for which this area has
traditionally been known.
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Table 1. New fruit crops for the Southeastern United States.
zScientific names and authorities listed in Hortus Third.
|Crop ||Scientific namez ||State(s) examining the new crop|
|American pear ||Pyrus communis L. ||Alabama|
|Apricot ||Prunus armeniaca L. ||Virginia|
|Asian pear ||Pyrus pyrifolia (Burm. f.) ||Alabama, Georgia, |
|Sand pear ||Nakai ||Kentucky, Maryland, |
|Chinese pear ||P. serotina Rehd. ||South Carolina, Virginia|
|Atemoya ||Annona cherimola Mill. x A. squamosa L. ||Florida|
|Brambles ||Rubus spp. ||Kentucky|
|Bunch grapes ||Vitis aestivalis Michx. ||Georgia|
|Carambola ||Averrhoa carambola L. ||Florida|
|Chinese chestnut ||Castanea mollissima Bl. ||Alabama|
|Feijoa ||Feijoa sellowiana Berg. ||Alabama, Georgia|
|Figs ||Ficus carica L. ||Georgia, Louisiana|
|Jujubes ||Ziziphus spp. ||Georgia|
|Kiwifruit ||Actinidia chinensis Planch. ||Alabama|
| ||A. deliciosa ||Georgia, South Carolina|
|Mayhaw ||Craetaegus aestivalis (Walt.) Torrey & Gray ||Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana|
|Oriental persimmon ||Diospyros kaki L. f. ||Alabama, Louisiana|
|Passion fruit ||Passiflora spp. ||Florida|
|Pawpaw ||Asimina triloba (L.) Dunal. ||Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina|
|Persimmons ||Diospyros lotus L. ||Louisiana|
|Pineapple guava ||Feijoa sellowiana Berg. ||Alabama, Georgia|
|Plums ||Prunus spp. ||Georgia |
|Pomegranate ||Punica granatum L. ||Alabama, Georgia|
|Rabbiteye blueberry ||Vaccinium ashei Reade ||Tennessee|
|Southern highbush blueberry ||Vaccinium corymbosum ||Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee|
|Sugar apple, Sweetsop ||Annona squamosa L. ||Florida|
Table 2. New vegetable crops for the Southeastern United States.
zScientific names and authorities listed in Hortus Third (1976).
|Crop ||Scientific namez ||State(s) examining the new crop|
|Apios ||Apios americana Medic. ||Louisiana|
|Asparagus ||Asparagus officinalis L. ||Florida, Georgia|
|Asparagus bean ||Vigna unguiculata ssp. sesquipedalis (L.) Verdc. ||Florida|
|Belgian endive, witloof chicory ||Chicorium intybus L. ||Virginia|
|Bottle gourd ||Lagenaria siceraria (Molina) Standl. ||Florida|
|Broccoli ||Brassica oleraceae L., Botrytis Group ||North Carolina, Virginia|
|Brussels sprouts ||Brassica oleraceae L., Gemmifera Group ||Virginia|
|Cabbage ||Brassica oleraceae L., Botrytis Group ||Virginia|
|Calabaza ||Cucurbita moschata (Duch. ex. Lam.) Duch. ex. Poir ||Florida|
|Chinese cabbage ||Brassica rapa L. Chinensis Group ||Kentucky, North Carolina|
| ||Pekinensis Group ||Tennessee|
|Chinese okra, angled luffa ||Luffa acutangula (L.) Roxb. ||Florida|
|Cluster bean ||Cyamopsis tetragonolobus (L.) Taub. ||Florida|
|Collards ||Brassica oleracea L. Acephala Group ||Georgia|
|Cucumbers, greenhouse ||Cucumis sativus L. ||Louisiana|
|Daikon ||Raphanus sativum L. var. Longipinnatus Bailey ||Kentucky, North Carolina|
|Garlic, elephant ||Allium spp. ||Virginia|
|Ginseng ||Panax quinquefolium L. Wallich ||North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia|
|Goldenseal ||Hydrastis canadensis L. ||Virginia|
|Guar ||Cyamopsis tetragonolobus (L.) Taub. ||Florida|
|Herbs, fresh ||various ||Georgia, North Carolina|
|Husk tomato ||Physalis ixocarpa Brot. ||Georgia, Louisiana|
|Hyacinth bean ||Dolichos lablab L. ||Florida|
|Ivy gourd ||Coccinea grandis (L.) Voigt ||Florida|
|Lablab bean ||Dolichos lablab L. ||Florida|
|Lauki ||Lagenaria siceraria (Mol.) Standl. ||Florida|
|Leeks ||Allium ampeloprasum L. Porrum Group ||Florida|
|Lemongrass ||Cymbopogon citratis DC. ex. Ness ||Georgia|
|Lettuce, specialty ||Lactuca sativa L. ||North Carolina, Virginia|
|Luffa, smooth, sponge gourd ||Luffa aegyptiaca Mill. ||Florida|
|Mushrooms ||Agaricus spp. Disparus spp., and others ||Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia|
|Muskmelons, Japanese ||Cucumis melo L. ||Florida|
|Onions, bulb ||Allium cepa L. ||Florida, North Carolina|
|Onions, green ||Allium
cepa L. ||Georgia|
|Organic vegetables ||various ||Virginia|
|Oriental vegetables ||various ||Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina|
|Parvar ||Trichosanthes dioica Roxb. ||Florida |
|Peanuts, green ||Arachis hypogaea L. ||Georgia|
|Peas, English ||Pisum sativum L. ||Georgia|
|Pepper, hot ||Capsicum spp. ||Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina|
|Pepper, bell (colored) ||Capsicum annuum L. ||Georgia|
|Pea eggplant ||Solanum torvum L. ||Florida|
|Pointed gourd ||Trichosanthes dioica Roxb. ||Florida|
|Potatoes, golden-fleshed ||Solanum tuberosum L. ||Virginia|
|Pumpkin ||Cucurbita spp. ||Georgia|
|Radicchio ||Chicorium intybus L. ||Georgia|
|Rhubarb ||Rheum rhababarum L. ||Florida|
|Sweetcorn, super-sweet ||Zea mays L. ||Kentucky |
|Thai eggplant ||Solanum macrocarpon L. ||Florida|
|Tindora ||Coccinea grandis (L.) Voigt ||Florida|
|Tomatillo ||Physalis ixocarpa Brot. ||Georgia, Louisiana|
|Tomatoes ||Lycopersicon lycopersicum (L.) Karst ||Kentucky, Tennessee|
|Yard-long bean ||Vigna unguiculata ssp. sesquipedalis (L.) Verdc. ||Florida|
|Watermelon, seedless ||Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai ||Florida|
|Winged bean ||Psophocarpus tetragonolobus (L.) DC ||Florida|
Table 3. New ornamental crops for the Southeastern United States.
zScientific names and authorities listed in Hortus Third (1976).
|Crop ||Scientific namez ||State(s) examining the new crop|
|Amaryllis ||Amaryllis spp. ||Florida|
|Anthuriums for foliage & flowering ||Anthurium spp. ||Florida|
|Bedding plants ||various ||Maryland|
|Blue daze ||Evolvulus glomeratus grandiflorus ||North Carolina|
|Bulbs ||various ||Virginia |
|Caladium ||Caladium spp. ||Florida|
|Calathea ||Calathea spp. ||Florida|
|Containerized annuals ||various ||Maryland|
|Crape-myrtle ||Lagerstroemia spp. ||South Carolina|
|Cut flowers, dried ||various ||Maryland|
|Dried flowers ||various ||Virginia|
|Flowering cabbage ||Brassica oleraceae L. Acephala Group ||Maryland|
|Flowering kale ||Brassica oleraceae L. Acephala Group ||Maryland|
|Godetia ||Clarkia amoena ssp. Whitneyi ('Grace' series) ||Kentucky|
|Holly ||Ilex spp. ||South Carolina |
|Nursery crops ||various ||Virginia|
|Orange browallia, firebush ||Streptosolen jamesonii (Benth.) Miers. ||North Carolina|
|Pink trumpet vine ||Podranea ricasoliana(Tanfani) T. Sprague ||North Carolina|
|Satin flower ||Clarkia amoena ssp. Whitneyi ('Grace' series) ||Kentucky|
|Specialty trees & shrubs ||various ||Maryland|
|Velvet sage ||Salvia leucantha ||Kentucky|
|Moss verbena ||Verbena tenuisecta Briq. ||Georgia|
|Rose verbena, creeping vervain ||Verbena canadiensis (L.) Britt. ||Georgia|
|Vervain ||Verbena rigida K. Spreng. ||Georgia|
|Woody ornamentals ||various ||Maryland|
|Woody plants for interior use ||various ||Alabama|
|Yarrow ||Achillea millifolium, German hybrids ||Maryland|
Last update April 7, 1997