LISTEN LIVE KPR - On Air: Listen Live to classical, jazz and NPR news Schedule LATEST
NEWSCAST
KPR 2 - On Air: Listen live to KPR's all talk-radio service, KPR2 Recordings

Share this page              

PHOTOS: Japanese Scientists Turn Chrysanthemums 'True Blue'

A blue genetically engineered Taihei chrysanthemum. Scientists modified two genes to create the "true blue" flower.

Japanese scientists have genetically engineered a chrysanthemum flower that is "true blue" — a color that has long eluded flower breeders and researchers.

Blue has proved a challenge to produce in many other popular flowers, including roses, carnations and lilies.

It hasn't happened until now in chrysanthemums due to the "recalcitrant and unpredictable expression of introduced genes," Naonobu Noda from Japan's National Agriculture and Food Research Organization tells The Two-Way. Noda is the lead author of the paper released today in Science Advances.

When scientists tried previously to introduce genes to create a blue color, Noda said, the flower would "shut them off by as yet unknown mechanisms." Other attempts produced violet flowers, not blue ones.

The researchers then took genes from two very blue flowers — butterfly peas and Canterbury bells — and snuck them into the chrysanthemum.

Those two genes modified the chrysanthemums' natural pigment to create a colorful molecule called delphinidin.

(Interestingly, delphinidin is also found in Cabernet Sauvignon grapes).

The scientists said the petals only turned a brilliant "true blue" due to an interaction between the delphinidin and the chrysanthemum's other, colorless compounds.

How do you define "true blue"? The Royal Horticultural Society has strict parameters, as defined by its color charts:

Noda says that this is a simpler process than they were expecting to have pigments express blue coloration, and adds that the technique might be applicable to other flowers, like roses and lilies.

Chrysanthemums are the most popular flower in Japan, according to The Associated Press. Here's more from the wire service:

"Like the cherry blossom, the chrysanthemum, called 'kiku' in Japanese, symbolizes the season, but more than that, it's a symbol of the country itself. The monarchy is referred to as the Chrysanthemum Throne and the imperial crest is a stylized mum blossom. That seal is embossed on Japanese passports. The flower is also a common motif in art, and it's seen in everyday life depicted on the 50-yen coin."

However, don't expect to see blue mums in stores soon. Noda says they have no specific plans for their sale, adding that "as they are genetically modified organisms, it is not easy to commercialize."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Tower Frequencies

91.5 FM KANU Lawrence, Topeka, Kansas City
96.1 FM K241AR Lawrence (KPR2)
89.7 FM KANH Emporia
99.5 FM K258BT Manhattan
97.9 FM K250AY Manhattan (KPR2)
91.3 FM  KANV Junction City, Olsburg
89.9 FM K210CR Atchison
90.3 FM KANQ Chanute

See the Coverage Map for more details

Contact Us

Kansas Public Radio
1120 West 11th Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Download Map
785-864-4530 (Main Line)
888-577-5268 (Toll Free)
contact@kansaspublicradio.org