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  • Author or Editor: Kelly M. Oates x
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Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’ is an adaptable and popular garden plant; however, reduction in height and increased novelty in flower color would be desirable. The effect of gamma radiation dose on in vitro survival and development, and ex vitro fertility, phenology, and morphology of tetraploid Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’ was investigated. In vitro embryogenic callus was treated with gamma radiation (0, 5, 10, 20, or 40 Gy). Rooted microshoots were established ex vitro and evaluated for morphology (plant height, number of flowers, diameter of the terminal flowers, diameter of the secondary flowers, number of stems, number of nodes, and internode length), date of first anthesis, winter survival, and pollen fertility on mature, second-year plants. Callus survival had no response to dose 2 months after treatment; however, microshoot number was significantly reduced with increasing dose. In vitro microshoot survival continued to decline at higher doses up to 4 months after treatment. Plant height, average stem height, number of flowers, flower diameter, percent winter survival, and pollen viability were all reduced with increasing radiation dose. Date of first anthesis was also delayed with increased radiation dose. Several off phenotypes were recorded including increased apical splitting of the ray florets in several plants. Gamma radiation was somewhat effective for reducing the height of R. subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers,’ but flower morphology, flower number, and plant overwintering survival were often negatively affected with increasing radiation dose. Treating callus with low levels of gamma radiation (5–10 Gy) resulted in relatively high in vitro and field survival while inducing a range of other mutations that could be selected.

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Rudbeckia spp. are adaptable and valuable ornamental wildflowers. Development of new varieties of Rudbeckia spp., with improved commercial characteristics, would be highly desirable. Interspecific hybridization and induced polyploidy may be avenues for improvement within the genus. The objective of this study was to evaluate fertility, morphology, phenology of flowering, and perennialness (overwintering survival) for lines of diploid and induced allotetraploids of R. subtomentosa × hirta and diploid and autotetraploids of R. subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’. Polyploid lines were developed and propagated in vitro and then grown ex vitro in a randomized complete block design with 12 replications. Compared with their diploid counterparts, autotetraploid lines of R. subtomentosa ‘Henry Eilers’ had similar internode lengths, plant heights, number of stems, flowering times (date at first anthesis), and fall and spring survival (100%); reduced number of inflorescences and male and female fertility; and increased inflorescence diameters. Compared with their diploid counterparts, allotetraploids of R. subtomentosa × hirta had similar internode lengths, reduced number of inflorescences, delayed flowering times, and increased pollen staining. Allotetraploids had limited male and female fertility compared with no detectable fertility in their diploid counterparts. Plant height and number of stems either decreased or showed no change with induced allotetraploidy. Spring survival of diploid hybrid genotypes ranged from 0% to 82% and was not improved in the allotetraploid hybrids. For a given genotype, some polyploidy lines varied significantly in certain morphological traits (e.g., plant height) indicating somaclonal variation may have developed in vitro or there were variable genomic or epigenetic changes associated with induced polyploidy.

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