IFAS News

University of Florida

UF researchers find genes that ‘tune’ flower fragrances

Topic(s): Agriculture, Research

clarkrose

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Shakespeare famously wrote, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” With all due respect to the Bard, University of Florida researchers may have to disagree: no matter what you call a flower, its scent can be changed.

A team at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has uncovered some of the genes that control the complex mixture of chemicals that comprise a flower’s scent, opening new ways of “turning up” and “tuning” a flower’s aromatic compounds to produce desired fragrances.

“For a long time, breeders have mostly focused on how flowers look, their size, color and how long blooms last,” said David Clark, a professor of environmental horticulture. “But scent has gotten left behind. Go to a florist and try to smell the flowers. You probably won’t get what you expect.”

Over the years, Clark says, breeders have selected flowering plants that produce bigger, more attractive flowers with long vase lives; but in doing so, they may have been inadvertently selecting plants that were willing to devote less to producing fragrance.

That may change. For example, a customer may someday be able to walk into a florist and select from scented or unscented varieties of the same flower.

In work published in the January issue of The Plant Journal and the February issue of Phytochemistry, the researchers describe how various genes in petunias help regulate the amount of the 13 major aromatic compounds in that flower’s fragrance. (more …)

UF study: Invasive snail may damage diet of rare Everglades bird

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Pests

snail-kite

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Invasive animals often wreak havoc with their feeding habits; however, University of Florida researchers say a huge South American snail is causing problems when it’s the prey rather than the predator.

Known as the island apple snail, it could threaten an endangered bird, the Everglades snail kite. The kite normally feeds on native apple snails the size of a golf ball. But in recent years, those snails have declined in historically important kite habitat and the birds have fled.

Many kites now dwell at Central Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga, which is filled with the invasive snails. The mollusks grow larger than a tennis ball and kites have difficulty holding them. Researchers warn that young kites there may be malnourished.

The study was published in the current issue of Biological Conservation.

Popular in the aquarium trade, the island apple snail may have been accidentally or deliberately released in the wild. It’s been found in numerous Florida locations, according to the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

As the invader spreads, it could become a serious threat to snail kite populations, said Wiley Kitchens, a courtesy professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Fewer than 700 of the birds exist in the U.S., all of them in Central and South Florida.

(more …)

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