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Home HortScience New Life for Endangered Georgia Plume
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ATHENS, GA—Georgia plume (Elliottia racemosa, Ericaceae) is a striking deciduous tree endemic to the Coastal Plain region of Georgia. Discovered in the United States as early as 1773 and documented by botanists in 1807, the unusual ornamental was so rare that the species was commonly considered to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1901.

The exceptional plant produces plume-like white flowers in early summer and can reach heights of up to nine meters. Georgia plume grows on sand ridges, dry oak ridges, and sandstone outcrops, but its spread has been limited by land development and the decline of natural habitat. Georgia plume is currently found in less than 36 populations in 19 counties, and has become so rare that it is categorized as a threatened species in its home state.

Previous efforts to propagate the rare ornamental using convention methods have failed. Propagation by shoot cuttings has been unsuccessful, and root cuttings can produce only a limited number of shoots. New research from scientists Carrie Radcliffe, James Affolter, and Hazel Wetzstein from the Department of Horticulture at The University of Georgia reports on an innovative in vitro shoot regeneration system that the researchers say is effective with georgia plume. The study appeared in HortScience.

The team collected cuttings from georgia plume populations growing throughout the plants' natural range. Tissues were cultured of leaves collected from 34 different genotypes representing 12 wild populations. After 8 weeks, tissues were transferred to a shoot elongation medium; shoot elongation was then rated at each transfer for 16 weeks. Of the 34 genotypes tested, 91% formed shoot tissue and 85% regenerated shoots within 6 months of inoculation.

"Our research verified that tissue culture can be used to produce adventitious shoots from a wide range of georgia plume genotypes," noted author Hazel Wetzstein. "This use of leaf tissue provides a source of highly regenerable tissues from mature plants collected from natural populations in the wild."

The researchers recommended the tissue culture propagation method as a practical system to safeguard and reintroduce genetically diverse plant material, emphasizing that the method may be critical to the survival of georgia plume as it faces the threat of extinction.

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The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/46/2/287

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. More information at ashs.org


 

Original Article:

In Vitro Shoot Regeneration of Georgia Plume, Elliottia racemosa, from Multiple Genotypes Collected from Wild Populations
Carrie A. Radcliffe, James M. Affolter, and Hazel Y. Wetzstein
HortScience 46:287–290. [Abstract] [Full Text] [PDF]

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