Plant development activities at Kings Park and Botanic Garden includes plant breeding through controlled pollination to improve natural forms of desirable species.
Many exotic plants have undergone great changes over decades, and even centuries. The varieties seen today are usually the result of a long and exhaustive chain of plant breeding events. The Australian flora is largely underdeveloped, with little breeding, which suggests there are considerable opportunities for development through breeding.
Kings Park and Botanic Garden is concentrating on pot and amenity plant development for a range of horticultural uses. An original focus was the Family Goodeniaceae, with breeding of Lechenaultia species over the past decade producing many hybrid plants with a range of colour and form. Six of these hybrids were released to the Western Australian market, including Lechenaultia 'Spirit of Suffrage', which was adopted as the floral symbol for the Centenary of Women's Suffrage in 1999, recognising the achievement of non-indigenous women in Western Australia obtaining the right to vote in 1899.
The current focus of breeding activities includes the development of new hybrid forms of Scaevola and Grevillea. The plant breeding process typically involves the cross-pollination of desirable species and forms. Tissue-culture techniques are employed to assist in the germination and propagation of hybrid material.
Advanced genetic testing techniques are also employed to assist in the early detection of hybrids. Genetic analysis allows plant breeders to determine the hybrid status of new varieties without growing the plants on to flowering stage, thus saving valuable resources for managing true hybrids.