NZ Plant Producers has teamed up with Plant & Food Research pollination biologists, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research scientists and Hamilton City Council on a project to look at the floral biology of ornamental cultivars of Japanese flowering cherry (Prunus serrulata).
Japanese cherries are starting to blossom, triggering spring festivals and picnic outings across the country. Over the next few weeks, NZPPI is arranging collection of blooming cultivars to send to the Plant & Food laboratory in Hamilton for floral examination. PFR pollination biologists Dr. David Pattemore and Dr. Melissa Broussard will look at the structural modifications to nectaries, stamens, and anthers from the additional rows of petals. They will complete pollen viability counts, and prepare a report on the reproductive 'fitness' of these double- and semi-double flowering cultivars compared to the single, 5-petaled wild type Prunus serrulata. Duplicate samples will be sent for DNA analysis to Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research laboratory in Lincoln.
We are hoping to find sufficient evidence that these cultivars are unlikely to produce lots of fruit and be "weedy" in the environment, to underpin an application to Auckland Council to have them exempted from the ban on Prunus serrulata sales in the region, due to come into force from 1 September 2022. This would mean these cultivars could continue to be propagated and sold in Auckland.
NZPPI is grateful to have the expertise of Vance Hooper (Magnolia Grove) on the project, to oversee the results and interpretation.