Space-bred flowers touch down on Chinese market

(People's Daily Online) 14:40, March 29, 2024

Photo shows Yandan 1, a space-bred variety of coral lily (Lilium pumilum). (Photo/People's Daily Overseas Edition)

Flowers grown from seeds that have voyaged through space recently made a stellar landing on Taobao, China's leading popular e-commerce platform. The offering includes a novel variety of coral lily (Lilium pumilum) called Yandan 1, alongside roses and carnations similarly developed in space.

This marks the first time space-bred flowers have been introduced to the Chinese market on such a large scale.

The parent seeds of Yandan 1 were sent into space aboard the Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft. Once back on Earth, scientists used protoplast fusion — a method that mixes the inner parts of plant cells to create new plant varieties — to create a new variety called Yandan 1.

"In simpler terms, the seeds were taken to space with the astronauts, exposed to the space environment, and then brought back to Earth for cultivation and breeding. This method is currently used for breeding over 90 percent of seeds in space," said Zhang Chuanjun, a senior aerospace breeding engineer.

The coral lily, native to Yan'an and surrounding areas in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, thrives in temperatures between 15 to 30 degrees Celsius.

The Yandan 1 variety boasts greater resistance to heat, cold, waterlogging, and drought. It can tolerate scorching temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius and withstand cold down to minus 30 degrees Celsius. This variety can survive lengthy rainy spells unscathed and even flourish without water throughout winter.

Additionally, Yandan 1 can grow in both acidic and alkaline soils, making it an excellent choice for novice gardeners.

According to Zhang, the flower seeds sent to space were exposed to cosmic radiation, near-complete absence of air or gas, and low gravity, leading to more vibrant colors, longer blooming periods, and pleasant fragrances after undergoing cultivation in the lab.

The initial batch of products sold out within just two days of their launch on Taobao. More space-bred flowers, including peach blossoms, cherry blossoms, and tulips, will soon be introduced to the market. Notably, these flowers are smaller and can bloom for up to two months.

(Web editor: Xian Jiangnan, Liang Jun)


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