Snake Oil, Horticultural Myths and Urban Legends from a Horticulturist
Horticulture is the cultivation of plants as ornamentals or for the production of food. When things go wrong (plants grow poorly or not at all), horticulturists sometimes turn to products that can “cure”, revitalize, invigorate, stimulate or enhance the growth of their plant or crop. A horticultural consultant colleague of mine, has often told me, “There are no miracles!” Unfortunately, when nothing else has worked, many people will turn to so called miracle products in hopes of a cure. Products that purport to give you that miracle are termed snake oil. Snake oil products claim many things, but usually without referenced research reports from Universities. Snake oil products almost always offer numerous testimonials to support their use. Those who provide testimonials are usually not researchers. Professional horticulturists, farmers and gardeners should be able to recognize snake oil products and avoid their use—we should base our horticultural decisions on sound research-based information, not on marketing claims and testimonial based admonitions.