Luther Burbank may as well have been Luther Rolex, so often were shoddy knockoffs apparently passed off using his name.

That both local newspapers produced long stories on the same theme within a few days of each other suggests that Burbank’s secretary, the euphonically named May Maye, had dispatched some sort of press release about the fakes. The followup story in the Press Democrat confirms that there was indeed a problem a few weeks earlier with counterfeit carnations in San Francisco on St. Patrick’s Day, but the other incidents below are described only as have happened “recently,” and some probably came from Burbank’s copious scrapbooks to underscore the seriousness of this type of threat to his business.

Plants and Flowers That Eminent Scientist Never Saw Are Being Sold as His Creations

When Dr. J. J. Summerfield of this city was in Birmingham, England, recently he chanced to pass a florist’s establishment and his eye rested on a sign in the window which told in attractive lettering that “Burbank’s Thornless Cactus” were for sale there.

Naturally the Santa Rosan entered the store and asked to see the Burbank creations. He was shown some insignificant flowers and plants and was told emphatically that they were the genuine, “obtained direct from Burbank.”

Summerfield looked at flower and plant for a moment and then startled the proprietor by saying:

“I am one of Burbank’s nearest neighbors in Santa Rosa, California, and I know positively that Mr. Burbank has not sent out any of his never fading flowers or thornless cacti. I will give you just half an hour to remove those signs from your window or else I will have it done for you.”

A half hour later Dr. Summerfield passed the place and the signs had disappeared and the proprietor of the store promised that they should not be displayed again.

But it is not only abroad that frauds are being practiced upon the public and injustice done the creator of so many new fruits, plants and flowers. Even in San Francisco and other cities, it has come to Mr. Burbank’s notice that a “Burbank Green Carnation” is being sold. The truth is Mr. Burbank has not yet attempted to produce a “green carnation.”

One of the cheekiest of the impositions is published in the Las Vegas, N. M., Optic. This is what it said:

“W. S. Burke, editor of the Albuquerque Journel [sic], is trying some interesting experiments with thornless cacti on this ranch near the city. While in California, recently, his old-time friend, Luther Burbank made him a present of some choice specimens of the thornless variety of cactus, with which he had been experimenting for a long time with the object of securing a species that would grow in the most pronounced desert. If he has succeeded, the barren tracts of California and Arizona and New Mexico will soon become the feeding ground of hundreds of thousands of cattle. The thornless cactus is nourishing and palatable to stock of all kinds.”

The Mr. Burke referred to Mr. Burbank has never seen, and does not know, so that the “old-time friend” idea is a false one. Again, Mr. Burbank has never sent out a single plant of the thornless cactus to anyone.

The Modesto News recently gave an account of one G. W. Elsey, who has a “tree of the Burbank plumcot.” The fruit is described at some length. There are none of the Burbank creation of plumcots on the market, therefore the plumcot Mr. Elsey has is not a product of the eminent scientist at all.

In Mexico, Arizona, and other places the supposed Burbank thornless cactus is being offered and the whole thing is a fake for, as stated, Mr. Burbank has not put any plants on the market. In London and New York the “never fading” flower is being offered and there are none of the genuine flowers to be had in either place at present.

– Press Democrat, April 6, 1905
A Florist Dyes Carnations Green and Declares Them Wizard’s Creation

An enterprising florist has created another endless chain of trouble and inquiry for Luther Burbank, whose home in this city is besieged early and late with visitors anxious to see and talk with the creator of new fruits and flowers.

In the celebration of St. Patricks Day recently the enterprising florist referred to dyed some beautiful white carnations a pretty green on the tip ends, and palmed them off on unsuspecting customers as the latest creation of the Burbank genius. Their success was instantaneous and many patriotic sons of Erin purchased the dyed carnations at fabulous prices.

Already the persons who saw and purchased the so-called green carnations supposed to have been designed by Mr. Burbank have begun writing letters regarding it. This morning’s mail brought several inquiries about the price of plants and other questions for Mr. Burbank to answer. One letter from Bakersfield enclosed the faded petals of the carnation to Mr. Burbank and this was the first time he had seen the alleged creation of his genius. It is apparent at first glance that the populace has been sadly imposed upon by the florist.

The story of the alleged green carnation brings to mind one of Mr. Burbank’s prettiest and most wonderful creations, the last plants of which were devoured by voracious gophers last season. This was a carnation which was pure white on the first day it blossomed, a beautiful pink on the second day, and a deep red on the third day. This color was maintained until the flower withered and died, but the succession of colors on the three days was a remarkable feat. At the time of its creation no one seemed to appreciate it and now that it is obsolete there is a great demand for it. Mr. Burbank knows the exact steps by which this was produced and intends to reproduce it. Mr. Pierson, a carnation expert of Cromwell, Mass., is very desirous of obtaining this novelty. He has two million feet of glass in his nurseries, most of which are devoted to the cultivation of carnations.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 14, 1905

Twice recently the Press Democrat has called attention to the fraud being perpetrated upon people in San Francisco by flower dealers selling “green” carnations, claiming that they are Burbank creations, when in reality they are white carnations dyed green by the use of chemicals.

According to a metropolitan newspaper the Board of Health of San Francisco have received a communication from F. Shibely, a florist, complaining that certain flower dealers were exhibiting and selling green carnations which were really nothing but the ordinary white blossoms colored green by the use of dye which he thought poisonous. While not ordering an official inquiry into the matter the Board directed that the Health Officer take such means as might be found available to give the flower buying public notice of the statement made.

– Press Democrat, April 22, 1905

Read More