New Ornamental Peppers Heading to Market
Yao March 16, 2009
Ornamental plant enthusiasts now have more pepper varieties to add to
their gardens. The Agricultural Research
Service (ARS) has entered into a license agreement with
McCorkle Nurseries, in Dearing,
Ga., for propagation and distribution of these eye-catching peppers.
The new plants, Midnight Creeper and Solar
Eclipse, are the latest in a line of ornamental pepper varieties released
by ARS. They were created by geneticist
Stommel of the
Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory and Rob Griesbach,
a former researcher with the ARS
and Nursery Plants Research Unit, both in Beltsville, Md.
Best used as bedding plants, Midnight Creeper and Solar Eclipse are
particularly striking due to their dark purple to black coloring. Once a
novelty, these colors are now standard elements to consider in garden design.
Black foliage provides long-lasting color in short-season climates and
year-round color in warmer climates.
Midnight Creeper has purple flowers and produces fruit thats
black when immature, but red when mature. Attractive in mass plantings as a
dense ground cover, the plant is unique in that it grows outward instead of
upward like other pepper plants. In contrast, Solar Eclipse is tall, bushy and
prized for its striking black foliage, providing a novel foundation for garden
designs. The plant produces very few flowers and fruit when grown under summer
field conditions, contributing to its season-long usefulness.
Taste evaluations for Midnight Creeper and Solar Eclipse indicated
that the fruit are extremely hot and very hot,
respectively. However, because the plants are intended for ornamental use,
Scoville ratingsmeasures used to verify a peppers
pungencywere not determined.
Stommel and Griesbachs research on ornamental peppers has dual
benefits. The research provides new, interesting cultivars for consumers while
also laying a foundation for anthocyanin research to help create plant colors
that the ornamental industry and consumers enjoy. Anthocyanins are
water-soluble pigments that give fruit, leaves, flowers, stems and roots their
color. They also protect the plant from damaging ultraviolet sunlight and act
as antioxidants when eaten.
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.