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UConn scientist develops sterile variety of invasive plant
Date:8/16/2011

Professor Yi Li's Laboratory in the University of Connecticut's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has developed a seedless variety of the popular ornamental shrub Euonymus alatus, also called 'burning bush,' that retains the plant's brilliant foliage yet eliminates its ability to spread and invade natural habitats.

"The availability of a triploid seedless, non-invasive variety of burning bush creates a win-win situation for both consumers and commercial nurseries," says Li, head of UConn's Transgenic Plant Facility and director of the New England Invasive Plant Center on the UConn campus in Storrs, CT. "The bush is an extremely popular ornamental plant for landscapers and gardeners because of its intense red autumn foliage and robust ability to grow in a wide range of soils and environmental conditions. In addition, the plant has very few pest or disease problems."

Also known as 'winged euonymus' because of its distinctive winged branches, burning bush is a top cash crop for the $16 billion ornamental plant industry. It is especially popular in New England and along the eastern seaboard where the shrub is used as foundation plantings, hedges and along highways and commercial strips.

National sales of burning bush top tens of millions of dollars each year. The plant, however, spreads aggressively and has been listed as an invasive species in 21 states. It has already been banned in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and is on an invasive plant 'watch list' in many other states, including Connecticut. The economic cost of invasive plants is estimated at more than $40 billion per year in the US.

The creation of a non-invasive variety of burning bush should help restore the shrub's prominence in the commercial marketplace.

Professor Max Cheng, a horticultural plant biotechnologist at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, says Li's success in regenerating a triploid non-invasive burning bush "has great
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Contact: Colin Poitras
colin.poitras@uconn.edu
860-486-4656
University of Connecticut
Source:Eurekalert

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