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Mrs. Gore receives "Tipper" from South African Ambassador Sonn
On Oct. 16, Mrs. Gore receives "Tipper" from South African Ambassador Franklin Sonn.


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 Arboretum here.

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 environmental focus.

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,