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Borrowed genes give mums the blues

‘Holy Grail’ of flower color achieved in chrysanthemums for the first time

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3:45pm, July 26, 2017
blue chrysanthemum

WHO’S GOT THE BLUES? Researchers in Japan have genetically engineered the first blue chrysanthemum. 

Mums are now a flower of a different color. Japanese researchers have added a hint of clear sky to the humble plant’s palette, genetically engineering the first-ever “true blue” chrysanthemum.

“Obtaining blue-colored flowers is the Holy Grail for plant breeders,” says Mark Bridgen, a plant breeder at Cornell University. The results are “very exciting.”

Compounds called delphinidin-based anthocyanin pigments are responsible for the natural blues in such flowers as pansies and larkspur. Mums lack those compounds. Instead, the flowers come in a variety of other colors, evoking fiery sunsets, new-fallen snow and all things chartreuse.

In previous attempts to engineer a blue hue in chrysanthemums — and roses and carnations — researchers inserted the gene for a key enzyme that controls production of these compounds, causing them to accumulate. But

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