VERNON -- Dr. Dariusz Malinowski is seeing blue, and he is very excited.
For four years, Malinowski, an AgriLife Research plant physiologist and forage agronomist in Vernon, has been working with collaborators Steve Brown of the Texas Foundation Seed and Dr. William Pinchak and Shane Martin with AgriLife Research on a winter-hardy hibiscus breeding project.
The project was first a private hobby of the inventors and became a part of the strategic plan of the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Vernon in 2009. The flower commercialization is a part of the research on non-traditional or under-utilized crops that have value because of drought tolerance.
Malinowski's breeding goal has been to create a blue-flowering winter-hardy hibiscus.
"A blue pigment does not exist in this species, thus hybridizers have not been successful so far in creating a plant with blue flowers," he said. "There are a couple of recently introduced cultivars with plum and lavender flower color."
But now Malinowski has managed to breed a flower with the illusive color.
He and his collaborators have created a number of lines with unique flower and foliage shape and color. The new hibiscus hybrids range in color from white through different shades of pink, lavender, bluish, red and magenta tones, and some of them have combinations of two or even three colors.
One line has dark maroon foliage with moderately big, white flowers that blend into a pink center with darker veins, Malinowski said. Flower size of these hybrids varies from miniature blooms 2 inches in diameter to the size of dinner plates, about 12 inches in diameter.
Malinowski has been using these cultivars in his breeding project for several generations. This year, they finally had one plant bloom with almost blue flowers, a significant breakthrough in efforts to create a blue hibiscus cultivar.
|Contact: Dr. Dariusz Malinowski|
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications