US National Arboretum


Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit


Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit - Origins
The Florist and Nursery Crops Laboratory was established in Beltsville, MD in the late 1930's to pursue research on the development of new and improved floral and nursery products. Over the years the laboratory focused on genetic improvement and disease control of major cut flowers and flowering pot plants. This research included a wide variety of crops including roses, carnations, poinsettias, chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, lilies, gladiolus, bulbous iris, azaleas, and many other crops. During the last 10 years, the laboratory has developed several new programs involving both applied and basic research focused on floral crop improvement. These programs have added capabilities in tissue culture, new crop development, biotechnology, and entomology. New pathology programs include genetic engineering, virus induced plant resistance, biological control, and development of natural products for pest and disease control.

The Research Unit at the U.S. National Arboretum, Washington, DC,  has been nationally and internationally recognized for outstanding contributions in plant breeding and taxonomy. The program has emphasized tree and shrub breeding and taxonomy. New introductions of Lagerstroemia, Viburnum, Pyracantha, Hibiscus, Ilex, Malus, and many others have been widely distributed and popularized by the nursery industry. Tree breeding has resulted in introductions of pest and disease resistant Ulmus and Acer as well as new forms of Magnolia. In addition, research on Ulmus and Acer has been conducted at the Delaware, Ohio research location. The herbarium at the National Arboretum contains more than 500,000 specimens and has assembled and botanically documented many new plants collected by Arboretum scientists and cooperators.

Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit - Today
In the Fall of 1993, the Florist and Nursery Crops Laboratory was combined with the Research Unit at the National Arboretum to become the Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit. The purpose of this union was to integrate a wider variety of science disciplines and new biological technologies into both the woody plant programs and the floral crop research. This mandate required a reexamination of programs at both the Beltsville and Washington, D.C. locations. Priorities were assessed in relation to the needs of industry, benefit to the general public and availability of scientific expertise. This approach brings a wide range of scientific talent to focus on the highest priority problems with the most efficient use of resources.

The addition of the Nursery Crops Laboratory (effective October 1, 1996), located at the Tennessee State University's Nursery Crops Research Station, McMinnville, Tennessee, to the Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit, provided additional expertise to the Shrub and Tree breeding programs and new expertise in production of woody ornamental plants.

At the present time there are eight Research Projects funded with base funds. There are 13 permanent full-time scientist positions, and a total of approximately 30 full-time staff in the unit.


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Last Updated   January 16, 2014 7:29 AM

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