Japan creates world’s first blue lily
TOKYO, May 14 — Japanese scientists have made a horticultural breakthrough that will put the world’s first blue lilies in florists’ windows.
Researchers in Niigata Prefecture have been working on creating a blue lily since 1998, and teamed up with scientists from drinks giant Suntory Holdings in 2006.
As well as being one of Japan’s biggest beer producers and the name behind some of the world’s best whisky, Suntory also operates a large bio-organic research facility, experimenting with the use of micro-organisms and enzymes for a wide array of future potential products.
Suntory had previously produced the world’s first blue chrysanthemum and rose, and the two organisations last week unveiled the latest blue floral creation in Niigata.
A blue lily had previously been considered impossible to breed because it lacks the gene required to produce blue petals. To date, lilies have only come in shades of white, yellow, orange and pink.
The blue lily was created by incorporating genes that produce blue pigments from campanula into lilies with pink petals, the prefectural government said.
The local authority has applied for international patent protection for the blue lily and has plans to start selling the flower commercially after further refinements designed to make the petals a deeper shade of blue.
Lilies are native to Japan and Niigata is the country’s third-largest lily-producing prefecture.
Experts say there are as many as 110 species in the lily family Liliaceae, and they are important in culture and literature in many parts of the world. They are frequently used in displays of “ikebana”, or traditional Japanese flower arranging.
It is not clear how long it will be before blue lilies are available for consumers, but the fruits of an earlier project — to create the world’s first blue rose — have already been reaped.
A truly blue rose has been the ultimate ambition of rose growers since 1840, when the horticultural societies of Britain and Belgium offered a prize of 500,000 francs for the first person to create a blue bloom.
It took nearly 160 years, but Suntory in 2009 filed a patent for its blue rose and the flowers are on sale in Japan.
The company has declined to say how much had been invested in creating blue flowers.
The methods of making a blue chrysanthemum, the blue rose and now the blue lily are similar and the research team intends to apply the technology to creating a range of other blue flowers. — Relaxnews