Saturday, February 10, 2007

Blue roses

Today, the weather has been almost unremittingly grim. After a rainy night, the clouds briefly lifted at breakfast, the sun came out, and myriad raindrops hung like pellucid beads upon the mossy branches of the wintering trees. Shortly thereafter, however, the skies darkened once more, and the rest of the day was punctuated by cold, wintry showers.

Time, then, to think of more colourful things, and, appropriately, this week's Economist features an interesting story about genetic attempts to create a genuinely blue rose, (www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=8663291). Horticulturalists attempted for many years, unsuccessfully, to breed blue roses, and existing roses which purport to be blue are, it seems, merely white roses which have been dyed blue. A couple of years ago, however, after many years of research, the Australian biotech company Florigene, working with researchers at its parent company, Suntory, produced a mauve-coloured rose, and attempts continue to develop a genuinely blue rose. www.physorg.com/news3581.html

5 comments:

Neil Forsyth said...

What is it with humans? We are never happy with what we've got. Nature's feelings are sure to be hurt by this. It's a right slap in the face. Speaking of which, if I were to present my wife with blue roses on Valentines Day I have a strong hunch it wouldn't go down too well.

Susan Balée said...

The horticulturalists *have* succeeded with blue tulips -- they are called, appropriately, Parrot Tulips. I saw 'em in Holland some years ago and spent a tidy sum buying bunches of bulbs so I could plant them in Philly. I got one anemic season's worth and then the bulbs quit producing.

Is it true, Gordon, that genetically-altered plants are weaker than "natural" strands? Or am I just thinking of clones (e.g., Dolly the sheep)?

Gordon McCabe said...

I haven't heard of GM-plants being intrinsically weaker, Susan, but it's not an area I know much about. I would suspect that it's difficult to modify one characteristic of a plant without inadvertently changing other characteristics, perhaps making the plant less likely to survive and reproduce.

Like any type of engineering, if you're going to change one aspect of a system with genetic engineering, you need to properly think through all the consequences of that change to the other parts of the system.

Clare Dudman said...

Useful for Valentine's day, perhaps. If red roses mean true love - I wonder what blue ones could mean.

Gordon McCabe said...

According to the language of flowers (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_of_flowers) blue means mystery, or attaining the impossible.

I wonder what a purple one means...