Pubdate: Fri, 05 Oct 2012
Source: Lethbridge Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2012 The Lethbridge Herald
Author: Katie May


Local experts have tried and failed to identify the plants police 
mistakenly seized from an accused drug trafficker's backyard.

Back in July, police took 1,624 plants from Ryan Thomas Rockman's 
garden in the 900 block of 13 Street North, declared the bust the 
largest-ever take down of an outdoor grow operation in Lethbridge's 
history, and laid five criminal charges against the 41-year-old 
grandfather. Police withdrew one count of producing a controlled 
substance earlier this week after lab results proved the plants 
weren't marijuana. But the tests didn't reveal exactly what the plants are.

Rockman has said the fall-blooming perennials, which he got from his 
neighbour 10 years ago, are Montauk daisies. But local botanical 
consultants are still curious to find out for sure.

Academics at the University of Lethbridge's Herbarium, where police 
brought some of the seized plants in addition to sending samples to 
be lab-tested in B.C., were unable to definitively identify them.

John Bain, director of the Herbarium and a professor of botany at the 
U of L, examined photos of Rockman's unbloomed plants and said they 
are certainly not drugs. That police drug experts confused the two 
"surprises me," he said.

"If you took the individual leaves off and they weren't attached to 
the plant, I could see how the individual leaves might look alike," 
he said, "but marijuana has leaves attached in what . . . kind of 
looks like fingers on a hand, whereas these ones were attached 
directly to the stem, so the way the leaves were attached is very different."

Montauk daisies are native to Japan and aren't commonly found 
locally, he said, but the plants might be some other type of daisy.

"Without the flowers, it would be very difficult to identify right 
down to species, so I'm kind of stuck. Based on the pictures I saw, 
and looking at pictures of Montauk daisies on the Internet, which 
I've done, it doesn't look like it," Bain said.

"Everything I know about identifying plants suggests that I can't 
stick my neck out too far unless I've got one in front of me, and 
hopefully with a flower," he added.

"If somebody brought me a flower, it doesn't really matter if it's 
the police or the general public, I'd try and identify it for them."

Karen Barby, the owner of Green Haven Garden Centre, has 35 years of 
experience specializing in plants. She tried for two days to 
positively identify Rockman's plant when he brought one to her in the 
summer shortly after police laid charges.

"I hate it when I have a mystery and I can't figure something out. I 
thought, 'I've got to be able to identify what this plant is,'" she 
said. "I'm puzzled, very puzzled."

She believes the plants are in the daisy family, although Montauk 
daisies can't withstand this region's cold winter temperatures, her 
research uncovered.

"It's not a plant that we sell and not a plant that I could find," 
she said. "I would love to know what that plant is."

Like Bain, Barby said examining the blooms would make it easier to 
identify the plant.

Daisies in Rockman's neighbour's yard, where he says he got his first 
plants, have bloomed to reveal common-looking white-petalled, 
yellow-centred blossoms.

On July 30, Lethbridge regional police knocked on Rockman's door to 
check on a court-imposed curfew for one of his relatives, who wasn't 
there. Instead, police found Rockman had, admittedly, been smoking 
marijuana, which led them to a search of his property, where they 
ripped out the plants. Brent Allen Oczko, 43, was also charged with 
one count of possession during the raid.

Rockman is to appear in court today on his remaining charges.
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