story to find out more.
The showy pink
flowers of Simarouba tulae, the aceitillo tree. Click the image for
more information about it.
Puerto Rico Provides New Ornamental Options
Flores July 3, 2006
The boldly-colored, long-lasting flowers and foliage of the rare
Puerto Rican evergreen known as roble cimarron, Tabebuia haemantha,
could one day grace parks and gardens in subtropical U.S. regions. That's
thanks to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists who've been conducting
domestic plant explorations since 2003, including in Puerto Rico, part of the
Commercial and home gardeners are always eager for new varieties,
making the U.S. horticultural market one of the world's largest, with more than
$45 billion in sales in 2005. But since only limited funding has been available
for developing cost-effective alternatives to current U.S. nursery offerings,
the ornamental germplasm of nearby Puerto Rico offers breeders rich, new
Tomás Ayala-Silva (left) and geneticist Alan Meerow evaluate a
Tabebuia haemantha seedling grown from seed they collected in Puerto
Rico. Click the image for more information about it.
Ayala-Silva and plant geneticist
Meerow work at the ARS
Horticulture Research Station in Miami, Fla., where Ayala-Silva also
curates a National Germplasm Repository (NGR). As one of 18 such facilities
preserving seeds and other reproducible plant parts under the
National Plant Germplasm System,
the Miami repository maintains U.S. clonal collections of a variety of tropical
crops. The researchers also evaluate new tropical and subtropical species for
possible introduction to the United States.
In several collection trips, Ayala-Silva and Meerow have collected
seed from multiple populations of T. haemantha throughout its limited
range in southwestern Puerto Rico, where it's native. This evergreen shrub or
small tree is bold in color, with red to bronze new growth forming a narrow
crown and deep-red flowers blooming for much of the year. The researchers hope
to eventually breed and select specimens with the best form and largest
flowersfrom this, and other, unusual species.
Samples of all of the germplasm collected by ARS in Puerto Rico will
be deposited at the NGR-Miami for use by plant breeders interested in
developing improved T. haemantha and other potential new
about the research in the July 2006 of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's principal scientific research agency.