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Roses + Celery Gene = Longer Rose Vase Life

You buy some roses as a Valentine’s Day gift for a loved one. You bring them home and present them to your loved one. Smiles abound.

Until disappointment sets in two days later, when the rose petals begin getting dark and mushy.

Welcome to the world of botrytis, or petal blight.

NC State horticultural scientists insert a gene from celery into roses to protect them from disease. The roses look and smell "normal."

To prevent this from happening, NC State horticultural scientists John Williamson and John Dole are looking at ways to extend the vase life of roses. One way of doing that is to keep diseases like petal blight at bay. So the researchers are inserting a gene from celery into roses to help fend off disease.

The celery gene, mannitol hydrogenase, chews up a sugar alcohol – called mannitol – that interferes with the plant’s ability to defend itself. The gene showed progress in defending plants like petunias.

The test roses in NC State greenhouses look and smell like “normal” roses. They’ll soon be tested for resistance to petal blight.

Poetry is not The Abstract’s strong suit. Since it’s Valentine’s Day, though, we couldn’t resist:

Roses are red
Celery is green
Roses last longer
With a celery gene.