Floral Gems: "Tipper" Makes Its American Debut
By Jill Lee
October 10, 1997
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 1997--"Tipper," a
creamy-white Star of Bethlehem lily named for Mrs. Tipper Gore, makes its
American debut next week. South African Ambassador Franklin Sonn will unveil
the exotic hybrid during a special ceremony on Oct. 16 at the U.S. National
Mrs. Gore and Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman will attend the
unveiling at the arboretum which is part of the Agricultural Research Service,
the chief research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The South African Agricultural Research Council (ARC) named the
South African hybrid "Tipper" in appreciation of Vice President Al Gore's
South African scientists who conduct research on indigenous South
African flowers will attend the gala, including Gail Littlejohn, the research
geneticist who developed "Tipper." This gala will premier the largest display
of these flowers ever seen in the U.S.
The exhibit will be open to the public from Oct. 17 to Nov. 16.
It will showcase the achievements of South Africa's Agricultural Research
Council in Elsenburg and Pretoria. It also will celebrate an ongoing
partnership between scientists at the ARC and at the National Arboretum. The
ARC and ARS researchers are continuing their collaborative efforts to develop
new disease- and pest-resistant ornamental flowers.
The seeds for this cooperative research were sown when Vice
President Gore and South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki initiated the
U.S. South African Bi-National Commission in 1994. The commission seeks
scientific and business opportunities that will benefit both nations. The
flower research grew out of the Commission's efforts to foster agricultural
cooperation between the two nations.
The new hybrids on display at the National Arboretum will
represent the "first fruits" of an expanded South African floral industry.
Other hybrids developed by the ARC will be making their U.S. debut.
The new research collaboration could lead to a wider variety of
exotic flowers available to U.S. consumers. Plus, development and cultivation
of new South African wildflower hybrids will provide that nation's people with
job opportunities and protect the country's delicate Fynbos ecosystem.
South Africa has 10 percent of the world's biodiversity but only
1 percent of the earth's land mass. Approximately 100 different botanical
products are currently harvested from its wild areas. This almost magical
diversity must be protected if it is to serve generations to come.
For centuries, rural communities on South Africa's Cape have
harvested flowers from the wild and sold them in the streets. But ecologists
warn that over-harvesting depletes seed reserves, tramples plants and disturbs
the soil, spreading the root rot disease Phytophthora. Growing these plants on
farms will protect the environment and ensure consistent quality.
The South African floral industry employs 20,000 people, yet the
country has high unemployment and could benefit greatly from the additional
jobs created by new horticultural products.
As part of the joint research, Elton John Jefthas of ARC's Fynbos
unit will come to the United States to learn cutting-edge floriculture
techniques from the National Arboretum scientists. Upon his return to South
Africa, Jefthas will pass the techniques on to local growers.
Scientific contact: Tom Elias, director, ARS U.S. National
Arboretum, Washington, D.C., phone (202) 245-4539, fax (202) 245-4575,