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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Blue Genes and Chrysanthemums

Blue Genes and Chrysanthemums

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Friday, August 4, 2017/Categories: photography, sustainability, art and design, environment, plants

                                First Blue Chrysanthemum Created in Japan (credit: Naonobu Noda/AAAS)

Clear blue flowers are uncommon in nature, by some estimates less than 10% of flowering plants produce blue blooms. Iris, larkspur, and cornflowers naturally carry the gene that codes for the blue anthocyanin pigment delphinidin but most other plant species do not. Blue is so prized by plant breeders and consumers, the Royal Horticultural Society in the UK has created charts to set category standards to be considered for all 'true colors' including blue.

In what is a 'first-of-its-kind' development, researchers at Japan's National Agricultural and Food Reseaerch Organization (NARO) have used modern molecular genetics to create a pure blue chrysanthemum. Publishing the results in Science Advances, plant scientist Naonobu Noda described how he used genetic engineering to insert a gene producing cyan hues from blue Canterbury Bells into Chrysanthemums. The gene modified the complex anthocyanin biochemistry pathway to produce blooms that were purple instead of red. To reach the RHS blue chart standard, he then inserted a second gene from a blue pea species to create the final blue chrysanthemum flower outcome. 

Breeding chrysanthemums is a long and honored tradition in Japan. They are highly prized and festivals are held every year to celebrate the newest blooms. Dr. Noda's blue chrysanthemums will likely take a top prize in future competitions, maybe in a category all their own. He is now working to create a sterile version of the blue 'mums' so plants could only be cutting propagated. The global flower market may have an exciting new entrant soon.



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