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  • Author or Editor: Margaret Pooler x
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Flowering cherries belong to the genus Prunus, consisting primarily of species native to Asia. Despite the popularity of ornamental cherry trees in the landscape, most ornamental Prunus planted in the United States are derived from a limited genetic base of Japanese flowering cherry taxa. Controlled crosses among flowering cherry species carried out over the past 30 years at the U.S. National Arboretum have resulted in the creation of interspecific hybrids among many of these diverse taxa. We used simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers to verify 73 of 84 putative hybrids created from 43 crosses representing 20 parental taxa. All verified hybrids were within the same section (Cerasus or Laurocerasus in the subgenus Cerasus) with no verified hybrids between sections.

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The U.S. National Arboretum has released over 650 new plant cultivars since it was established in 1927. A key to the success of the plant breeding program has been the voluntary participation of universities and private nurseries in evaluating and propagating new plant material. The cooperative evaluation and stock increase programs play a critical role in the successful testing, introduction, and distribution of new cultivars of landscape trees and shrubs. These integrated cooperative programs depend on the involvement of nurserymen, researchers, botanic gardens, or individuals to evaluate potential new cultivars under diverse climatic conditions and hardiness zones, and wholesale propagation nurseries to increase stock of those cultivars destined for release.

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Doubled haploid peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] lines were cross-pollinated to produce F1 hybrids. F1 hybrids were evaluated at 3, 7, 8, and 9 years after field planting for tree growth as measured by trunk cross-sectional area, and for fruit production as measured by total weight, total number, and production per unit trunk cross-sectional area. Fruit quality of most F1 hybrids was within the range of quality observed in progeny of standard peach cultivars, and tree growth and productivity were similar to those of standard cultivars. F1 hybrids present the possibility of developing scion varieties that can be produced from seed, thus eliminating the need for grafting scions onto rootstocks in situations where specific, adapted rootstocks are not necessary. They could also be used to develop genetically uniform seed-propagated rootstocks. The use of doubled haploid-derived F1 peach hybrids, however, would require reliable, efficient production techniques.

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Many popular crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia L.) cultivars grown in the United States are interspecific hybrids between L. indica L. and L. fauriei Koehne. The 22 hybrid cultivars released from the U.S. National Arboretum contain primarily genetic material from L. fauriei PI 237884. Examining the genetic diversity ofL. fauriei specimens in the U.S. is valuable because of the historical and economic significance of the species, the increasing interest it is receiving as a source of new cultivars, and its threatened status in the wild. Our objectives were to examine molecular genetic diversity among L. fauriei accessions using Randomly Amplified Polymorphic DNA (RAPD) and Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms (AFLP) markers. Our results indicate: 1) RAPD and AFLP markers are generally consistent in the genetic relationships that they suggest; 2) the L. fauriei germplasm we examined falls into at least three distinct clusters; and 3) the genetic base of cultivated Lagerstroemia could be broadened significantly by incorporating some of this more diverse L. fauriei germplasm into breeding programs.

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