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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SMALL FRUIT AND ORNAMENTAL GENETIC RESEARCH FOR THE MID-SOUTH Title: Breeding Lyonia and Leucothoe, native evergreen shrubs

Authors
item Rinehart, Timothy
item Barker, Charlotte -
item Davis, Mike -
item Spiers, James

Submitted to: Experiment Station Bulletins
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: October 7, 2010
Publication Date: October 7, 2010
Citation: Rinehart, T.A., Barker, C., Davis, M., Spiers, J.M. 2010. Breeding Lyonia and Leucothoe, native evergreen shrubs. Experiment Station Bulletins. vol 37, pg 5.

Technical Abstract: Native evergreen shrubs that thrive in shade are typically limited to specific hollies and azaleas. Few evergreen ornamental plants tolerate deep shade and humidity in the south. Several species of Lyonia and Leucothoe thrive in partial to full shade and tolerate a wide variety of soil and environmental conditions. A few cultivars are commercially available for Leucothoe axillaris (coastal doghobble) and Leucothoe fontanesiana (highland doghobble) but little breeding work has been done and the horticultural potential of related species is relatively unexplored. Related species that are native to the south include Leucothoe recurva (redtwig doghobble), Leucothoe racemosa (swamp doghobble or sweetbells), Lyonia mariana (staggerbush), Lyonia lucida (fetterbush), Lyonia ligustrina (maleberry), Lyonia fructose (coastal staggerbush), Lyonia ferruginea (staggerbush), Gaultheria procumbens (eastern teaberry), Gaultheria oppositfolia (snowberry), Pieris floribunda (mountain fetterbush), Pieris phillyreifolia (climbing fetterbush), and Agarista populifolia (hobblebush). As the common names imply, most of these plants are understory shrubs that can be difficult for dogs or humans to navigate when growing in mass plantings. Flowers are generally white to pink, urn-shaped and attached to pendant, axillary racemes in the spring. Some are fragrant. Although individual flowers are small (less than 1 cm), they are clustered along 5.0- to 10 cm-long racemes and provide a striking contrast to the dark green foliage. The flowers look remarkable like blueberry because these species are all within the subfamily Vaccinioideae, which includes blueberry, huckleberry, farkleberry, snowberry, winterberry, maleberry, dangleberry, bilberry, whortleberry, cranberry, grouseberry, and cowberry. Growth habits range from groundcovers in both compact and spreading forms up to taller trees (3 meters). Lyonia species are typically not as shade tolerant as Leucothoe but can tolerate wet conditions. Both species are low maintenance and not likely to require irrigation, pruning, or insectidice/fungicide application. Currently available cultivars include many important horticultural traits but species names are not accurate and Leucothoe fontenesiana and Leucothoe axillaris may be confused within the industry. DNA sequencing and molecular markers can be used to effectively identify species, assess genetic diversity of plants available for breeding, and enhance the collection and conservation of additional germplasm from the wild. Our objective is to use molecular tools to accelerate traditional intra- and interspecific breeding of Lyonia and Leucothoe, which are underutilized native plants in the South.

Last Modified: 10/23/2014
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