GAINESVILLE, FL. - A plant always makes for a nice gesture on Valentine’s Day, and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are breeding flora that may emit alluring aromas to your sweetheart.
Zhanao Deng, a professor of environmental horticulture at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Fla., breeds gerbera daisy cultivars that are resistant to powdery mildew, the most destructive fungal disease for this type of flower.
Deng and his team have released several gerbera daisy cultivars, and some of them performed well in industry trials in Georgia, Ohio and Texas.
The research doesn’t stop there, as Deng and his lab are breeding more lines for the future. Meanwhile, they are sequencing the gerbera daisy’s genes, developing DNA-based molecular markers, and trying to find and engineer the gene or genes that control resistance to the powdery mildew.
“We hope these markers and new tools will help the development of new powdery mildew-resistant cut gerbera daisies, which are popular for many occasions, including Valentine’s, weddings and more,” Deng said.
You could also give your significant other an orchid. UF/IFAS environmental horticulture professor Wagner Vendrame uses cryopreservation to keep orchids fresh.
“Recent advances in orchid cryopreservation have provided simple and effective protocols for long-term storage of orchid seeds and pollen at ultra-low temperatures,” said Vendrame, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida. “Cryopreservation is an important tool that allows long-term conservation and preservation of endangered orchid species.”
Other suggestions for plants to give at Valentine’s Day? Nicole Pinson, a UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County horticulture agent, recommends the following: African violets, cyclamen, hydrangea, bulbs, amaryllis, azaleas, begonias, camellias, gardenias, hibiscus and red aglaonema.