Western Australian kangaroo paws are under the microscope as part of a quest to understand more about this iconic flower.
Dr David Field from Edith Cowan University’s School of Science is leading an international research team assembling the first kangaroo paw genome.
He said the project would open opportunities to breed plants with new colour varieties and disease resistance and build our understanding of the evolutionary history of kangaroo paws.
“Understanding the genetic basis of traits helps us decipher the blueprint underlying variation we see in nature,” Dr Field said.
“Once we identify some of the genes responsible for traits including flower colour or disease resistance, we can use this information to breed new varieties of resilient plants.
“Some kangaroo paws have desirable floral or growth traits but are highly susceptible to ink spot disease. Understanding the genetic basis of these traits will allow us to mix and match combinations of desirable traits between species.”
Dr Field said despite the status of kangaroo paw as Western Australia’s floral emblem, there was only rudimentary understanding of the genomes of these unusual plants.
“Assembling the genome and comparing the DNA sequence between varieties will unlock vast amounts of information regarding the evolutionary history of the 11 known species of kangaroo paws, helping us understand how new species form and how biodiversity is generated,” he said.
The team, which includes researchers from Kings Park Botanical Gardens, aims to provide the blueprint for the development of new plant varieties to appeal to Western Australia’s annual $50M horticultural market.
The project is expected to be completed by 2024.