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  • Author or Editor: Margaret R. Pooler x
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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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The crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia) is one of the most widely planted and beloved woody ornamental landscape plant in the Southern United States. With hundreds of named cultivars that offer the grower and gardener diverse combinations of flower color, growth habit, and bark characteristics, crapemyrtles are planted primarily for their spectacular bloom in mid to late summer. The crapemyrtle breeding program at the U.S. National Arboretum was started in the early 1960s, and has resulted in the release of 31 improved cultivars of L. indica, L. indica × L. fauriei, and most recently, hybrids between L. indica, L. fauriei, and L. limii. The development of these cultivars, with a focus on the newly released red-flowering cultivars `Arapaho' and `Cheyenne', will be the focus of this poster. Information on Lagerstroemia germplasm, historical perspective, and breeding methodology and goals will be presented.

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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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