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Susan M. Hawkins and Carol D. Robacker

Native grasses are increasingly used in the landscape. Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium L.), a perennial bunchgrass native to most of the United States, has ornamental traits, such as variation in leaf color, differences in growth morphology, and attractive seed heads. Traditionally, cultivars of little bluestem are propagated by division, which limits the production of new plants. Our objective in this study was to develop an improved micropropagation protocol for little bluestem that would produce true-to-type plants. In 2016, we cultured immature inflorescences of eight genotypes of little bluestem on Murashige and Skoog (MS) medium with four combinations of kinetin (1.0 or 2.0 mg·L−1) and 2,4-D (0.5 or 1.0 mg·L−1) under three levels of light (dark, semilight, full light) to initiate callus. Cultures were evaluated 30 days after initiation and those that had initiated callus were subcultured. Media for subculturing and rooting contained either 0.1 mg·L−1 or no 1-Naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA). Light level had no effect on callus initiation. Initiation media with 1.0 mg·L−1 kinetin and either level of 2,4-D induced callus at almost twice the rate of media with 2.0 mg·L−1 kinetin, and cultures initiated on those media also produced almost twice the number of rooted plants over all genotypes. Genotype affected the number of rooted plants produced. The addition of NAA to medium for subculturing and rooting did not increase the number of rooted plants. In 2017, we cultured immature inflorescences of four genotypes of little bluestem on MS medium with 0.5 mg·L−1 2,4-D and either 1.0 mg·L−1 kinetin or 6-benzylaminopurine (BAP) under full light. Cultures were evaluated 30 days after initiation. Cultures that had initiated callus were subcultured onto MS medium with the same growth regulators as the initiation medium but without 2,4-D. Cultures were cycled between subculture medium with growth regulator and subculture medium with no additional growth regulator until rooted. Cultures initiated and subcultured on medium with BAP initiated two to three times more callus than those on kinetin and produced twice as many rooted plants. Our recommendation for rapid micropropagation of little bluestem is to initiate cultures on MS medium with 1.0 mg·L−1 BAP and 0.5 mg·L−1 2,4-D. After callus initiation, cultures should be subcultured to medium with BAP but no 2,4-D, alternating with medium with no additional growth regulators, until rooted.

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Susan M. Hawkins, John M. Ruter and Carol D. Robacker

Four species of Dissotis and three species of Tibouchina, two genera of the Melastomataceae family, were crossed in an attempt to create interspecific and intergeneric hybrids. Intergeneric crosses set seed at a rate of 18.1% and interspecific crosses had a 32.3% rate of seed set. Germination was extremely poor, with only four crosses having germinated seed. Crosses produced 31 seedlings. Three of the seedlings were from intergeneric crosses between Dissotis canescens and Tibouchina lepidota. Interspecific crosses produced 25 seedlings from crosses between Dissotis princeps and Dissotis rotundifolia and three seedlings from crosses between D. canescens and D. princeps. The prognosis for conventional breeding for species in Dissotis and Tibouchina is poor due to low seed set, poor germination, and slow growth of progeny.

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Susan M. Hawkins, John M. Ruter and Carol D. Robacker

Interspecific and intergeneric crosses were performed between species in the genera Baptisia and Thermopsis with the goal of creating hybrids with the best qualities of both parents. Baptisia australis (L.) R. Br. was used as both the male and female parent in intergeneric crosses. Thermopsis chinensis Benth. ex S. Moore, T. lupinoides (L.) Link, and T. villosa Fernald & B.G. Schub. were used as male and female parents in both interspecific and intergeneric crosses. Pollen was collected from B. alba (L.) Vent., B. bracteata Muhl. ex Elliott, and B. lanceolata (Walt.) Ell. and used to make interspecific and intergeneric crosses. Putative hybrids were obtained from both interspecific and intergeneric crosses. Interspecific crosses produced a higher percentage of pollinations resulting in seed set and the number of seeds per pollination than intergeneric crosses. Morphological differences between parent species and progeny were evident in putative hybrids resulting from intergeneric crosses between T. villosa and B. australis and T. villosa and B. alba. Most putative hybrids bloomed during the second year after germination. Because seedlings could be obtained from both interspecific and intergeneric crosses, hybrids within and between the genera Baptisia and Thermopsis are feasible. The Fabaceae family contains 670–750 genera and 18,000–19,000 species. Baptisia (commonly called false or wild indigo) and Thermopsis (commonly named false lupine) of the Fabaceae belong to the tribe Thermopsidae, which comprises 46 species in six genera. All species in Thermopsis and Baptisia are herbaceous; they are the only two genera in Thermopsidae that do not have woody species. Thermopsis contains 23 species and has a wide-spread distribution with species endemic to Asia and much of temperate North America. Although Thermopsis is considered to have originated in central Asia, T. chinensis Benth. ex S. Moore and T. fabacea (Pallas) Candole are thought to have originated in North America and migrated over the Bering Land Strait to Asia. Three Thermopsis species, T. fraxinifolia Nutt. ex M.A. Curtis, T. mollis (Michx.) M.A. Curtis ex A. Gray, and T. villosa Fernald & B.G. Schub., are native to the southeastern United States. Baptisia contains 15–17 species that are endemic to the southeastern and midwestern United States.

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Susan M. Hawkins, John M. Ruter and Carol D. Robacker

Dissotis rotundifolia (Sm.) Triana and Tibouchina fothergillae ×pilosa are members of the Melastomataceae family with high ornamental potential. The growth habits of these species are not ideal for nursery production or shipping. D. rotundifolia grows rapidly and needs frequent pruning. T. fothergillae ×pilosa has an open growth habit and could benefit from a more compact form. The effect of the plant growth regulator (PGR) paclobutrazol on D. rotundifolia and T. fothergillae ×pilosa was assessed to determine whether it could produce plants with a more compact growth habit. Paclobutrazol was applied as a drench and a spray. Drench application was more effective in reducing the growth of both species. Spray application was effective in reducing the growth of D. rotundifolia but was not effective on T. fothergillae ×pilosa. Neither drench nor spray application delayed or reduced flowering in D. rotundifolia. T. fothergillae ×pilosa did not flower during the study. For both D. rotundifolia and T. fothergillae ×pilosa, neither drench nor spray application had an effect on root dry weight. Low-to-medium dosages were effective at controlling plant growth in D. rotundifolia and T. fothergillae ×pilosa without adverse effects on plants. Drench treatments have more persistent effects on plant growth than spray treatments.