The Lilac Story

A plant breeding team in Pennsylvania was interested in developing a new cultivar of lilac for market.  They started by crossing many different varieties and the next year planted the seeds.  One seedling that grew had interesting foliage that was variegated white with green (Fig. 1).  The breeders thought a niche market might exist for such a lilac and set out to learn how this trait was inherited so that it could be introduced into other lilac lines.

The plant breeders had been in business for some time and already knew that every cell in a plant contains DNA.

DNA encodes instructions for all of the plant’s characteristics, such as height, leaf shape, hormones, root growth, and color, just to name a few.  The DNA controlling these functions is located in the nucleus of the cell.  You could think of the nucleus as the brain of the cell; it contains all the instructions needed to organize cell functions.

Figure 1.  Illustration of variegated lilac leaves. Image created by Rachael Sitz