Botanist identifies mystery 'Gypsy' plant

Oct. 19, 2011 at 5:10 PM
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MERIDIAN, Miss., Oct. 19 (UPI) -- A strange grass-like plant found in a Mississippi graveyard may be linked to the final resting place of members of a royal Gypsy family, a U.S. researcher says.

U.S. Department of Agriculture botanist Charles Bryson was asked to help classify an unfamiliar plant found in Rose Hill Cemetery in Meridian, Miss., and after several months of study identified the plant as blue sedge (Carex breviculmis), a native of Asia and Australia and previously unknown in North America, a USDA release said Wednesday.

The plant has been found in or around four cemeteries in Meridian, including Rose Hill Cemetery.

Rose Hill Cemetery is a destination for visitors from all over the world who come to pay their respects at the grave site of Kelly Mitchell, the Queen of the Gypsies, who was buried there in 1915 along with her husband and other family members.

Bryson said he thinks travelers brought the sedge to Mississippi, possibly in seeds trapped in clothing or by leaving plants or soil at the grave sites of the Gypsy royalty.

At sites where it is now established, the plant exhibits weedy characteristics and reproduces and spreads profusely, Bryson said, suggesting the Old World sedge could someday cause problems in U.S. lawn and turf systems as well as in fruit and nut crop production.

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