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Pretty & hot.

At a distance, the bright-green foliage liberally sprinkled with brilliant red splashes of color looks like a plant decorated for the holidays. But a closer inspection shows the miniature Christmas tree to be an ornamental pepper plant that's loaded with clusters of red, Tabasco-- like peppers.

"This plant is grown from one of three ornamental pepper lines developed by USDA scientists from a diverse collection of hot Indian peppers," says John R. Stommel, plant geneticist at the ARS Vegetable Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. "All three breeding lines contain unique combinations of genes for leaf variegation, leaf pigmentation, and multiple fruiting."

Released as germplasm lines 90C40, 90C44, and 90C53, all bear fruit that is edible--but exceedingly pungent. Their coded names pinpoint the year final plant selections were made (1990), the "C" stands for Capsicum annuum L., and 40, 44, and 53 identify the individual lines.

Selected for. their ornamental value, these peppers have each proven successful in commercial trials as potted plants in California and as bedding plants in Illinois and Japan.

Line 90C53 grows the largest, forming a bushy plant about 21 inches tall, with bright green leaves faintly mottled with dark purple; Peppers are borne upright and appear singly and in clusters of two or three. The deep purple peppers turn bright red in about 4 months.

The more compact germplasm line 90C44 was selected for its dark purple--nearly black--leaf color and numerous upright pepper clusters that also turn from purple to red.

Line 90C40 produces bushy, greenpurple-white variegated plants that grow to about 15 inches tall. Unlike its two siblings, this line was chosen for its variegated foliage. It bears inconspicuous, pendant peppers.

Although introduced as ornamental peppers, the new germplasm also has potential for vegetable pepper breeding programs. The original parents from which the new lines were derived are potential sources of resistance to root knot nematode, bacterial wilt, and phytophthora root rot. The new lines were not selected or screened for this pest resistance, though.

Original plant crosses were made by T.H. Barksdale, who is now retired from the Beltsville Vegetable lab.

ARS plant geneticist Robert J. Griesbach of the Florist and Nursery Crops Laboratory at Beltsville worked with Stommel to develop these germplasm lines.

John R. Stommel is at the USDAARS Vegetable Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705; phone (301) 504-5583, fax (301) 504-5555.

Robert J. Griesbach is at the USDA-ARS Florist and Nurser Crops Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705; phone (301) 504-6574, fax (301) 5045096.
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Title Annotation:red peppers
Author:Stanley, Doris
Publication:Agricultural Research
Date:Dec 1, 1993
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