(special guest post by/with permission of good friend Mr. John Friel, marketing manager for Emerald Coast Growers – Holly Scoggins)
How do you recognize a dogwood? By its bark.
That old joke might not be a joke anymore, if the innovative folks at Metamorphic Agriculture Developers (MAD) get USDA approval for a new line of ornamental and functional shrubs that blur the line between the animal and vegetable kingdoms.
MAD scientists claim to have successfully introduced genes from Canis familiaris into a cultivar of Cornus canadensis. In other words, they’ve crossed a creeping groundcover dogwood with … a dog. Specifically, a dachshund.
“Imagine a guard dog that you never have to feed, license, or walk,” enthused Dr. Horace Sass. “Imagine a shrub that not only beautifies your home but guards it when you’re away,” adds his colleague, Dr. Ariel Sturgeon. The two bring a unique perspective to their work: Dr. Sturgeon is a mermaid, while Dr. Sass is a centaur.
After considerable trial and error, the team believes its Canis /Cornus combination is the best of both kingdoms. The first hurdle was finding the right plant.
“We tried Physocarpus first,” said Dr. Sturgeon, “but every one that grew to maturity would bark nine times when approached. Our focus group said that was too many.”
Crosses involving Cornus alba succumbed to a fungal disorder that afflicts that species. Said Sturgeon, “The blight was worse than their bark.”
Once they’d settled on Cornus canadensis, the next step was to find the right canine breed. “The pit bull shrubs were tough and sturdy, but their bite was worse than their bark,” said Sass, gingerly rubbing his right foreleg.
While they hope for widespread acceptance of their remarkable new hybrids, the team admits there are challenges, In winter, the plant/pet eventually goes dormant, but not before trying stubbornly to get into the house.
“The whining may be a turn-off for some homeowners,” Dr. Sturgeon admits. “In those cases, we recommend large containers, overwintered in the garage.”