Ornamental flowering cherry trees (Prunus L. species) are popular landscape plants, made famous in the U.S. by the historic Tidal Basin cherries planted in Washington, DC. Although planted primarily for their spring bloom, flowering cherries are also used as street or shade trees and are valued for their fall foliage as well as ornamental bark. Approximately 1.3 million flowering cherry trees are sold each year in the U.S. with an estimated total sales of $24.8 million (NASS, 1998).
The U.S. National Arboretum has an ongoing breeding program aimed at developing new cultivars of ornamental cherry with disease and pest resistance, tolerance to environmental stresses, and superior ornamental characteristics. Breeding strategies include broadening the genetic base of ornamental Prunus by incorporating germplasm from diverse Prunus species into new cultivars, analyzing genetic diversity using molecular markers, and exploring the use of genetic engineering to increase disease and pest tolerance. This report documents the first two flowering cherry selections, Prunus ‘Dream Catcher’ and ‘First Lady’, released from the flowering cherry breeding program at the U.S. National Arboretum.
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