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True Blue

Researchers in Japan have used genetic engineering to develop a chrysanthemum that is a true blue, NPR reports. It notes that blue chrysanthemums, as well as blue roses and lilies, have long been sought by flower breeders and researchers, but have proven elusive.

Researchers led by Ryutaro Aida at Japan's National Agriculture and Food Research Organization introduced genes from the butterfly peas and Canterbury bells — both of which are quite blue — into chrysanthemums. As they reported this week in Science Advances, the researchers found that they could make blue chrysanthemums by co-expressing CamF3′5′H and CtA3′5′GT. That, they add, leads to increased levels of 3′,5′-glucosylated delphinidin-based anthocyanin.

Previous attempts to make blue chrysanthemums had resulted in flowers that were more violet, but here, NPR notes, the result meets the Royal Horticultural Society's standards for blue. First author Naonobu Noda, also from National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, adds that their approach might work to make other flowers blue.

Noda adds that they have no plans sell their flowers. He says that "as they are genetically modified organisms, it is not easy to commercialize."