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  • Author or Editor: Hui-tang Pan x
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Hydrangea macrophylla is the most popular species in the genus Hydrangea because of its large and brightly colored inflorescences. Since the early 1900s, numerous cultivars with showy flowers have been selected. Although many H. macrophylla cultivars have been developed, cold hardiness is still the major limitation to their outdoor use. Hydrangea arborescens is a small attractive shrub or subshrub native to northeastern parts of the United States, which is valued for its hardiness. Interspecific breeding of H. arborescens and H. macrophylla has been tried, but putative hybrid seedlings either died at an early stage or were not verified. We made successful hybridizations between H. macrophylla ‘Blue Diamond’ and H. arborescens ‘Annabelle’ and used in vitro ovary culture to produce viable plants. Hybrids were intermediate in appearance between parents, but variable in leaves, inflorescences, and flower color. The success of this hybridization was confirmed by six simple sequence repeat (SSR) genetic markers. The maternal chromosome number was 36, and the paternal number was 38. Chromosome counts of hybrids indicated that nearly half of them were aneuploids. Male fertility of progeny was evaluated by fluorescein diacetate staining of pollen. Twelve out of 14 hybrids (85.7%) had male fertility. We documented the first flowering progeny of H. macrophylla and H. arborescens, suggesting an effective beginning to a cold hardiness breeding program.

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Yellow-leafed cultivars usually do not grow as vigorous as their green-leafed counterparts, which affect their use in landscapes. To breed Forsythia cultivars with both yellow leaves and vigorous growth, crosses between F. ‘Courtaneur’ (♀) and Forsythia koreana ‘Suwon Gold’ (♂) were conducted, and 52 F1 hybrid progenies with different leaf colors (green, chartreuse, and yellow) were obtained. The progenies were categorized into three groups [Yellow Group (YG), Chartreuse Group (CG), and Green Group (GG)] based on leaf colors. The growth index (GI) and the number of branches and leaves of YG progenies were significantly lower at 2%, 35%, and 34% of GG progenies. As the leaves changed from green to chartreuse and to yellow, chlorophyll content, leaf thickness, and chlorophyll fluorescence parameters decreased and the chloroplast structures were disintegrated gradually, which influenced the leaf photosynthetic activity and led to weak growth. Compared with yellow-leafed progenies, the leaf chlorophyll content and leaf thickness of chartreuse-leafed progenies were significantly higher at 71% and 9%. The chloroplast structure of stroma lamella of chartreuse-leafed progenies was relatively intact. Carboxylation efficiency (CE), photochemical efficiency of PS II (F v/F m), and the number of branches and leaves of GG progenies were significantly higher than YG progenies; however, they have no significant difference with CG progenies. The results were promising for breeding new forsythia cultivars from moderate growth and chartreuse leaves.

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