Ground-breaking plant hybridisation research at the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority has produced a blue kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos) for commercial release in early 2022.

New blue kangaroo paw, ‘Masquerade’ created by the Kings Park plant breeding team. Photo: BGPA

The ‘Masquerade’ kangaroo paw, the only blue variant in existence world-wide, is the result of nearly a decade of development by BGPA plant breeders.

But this Anigozanthos would not have existed without a trick of fate.

‘It was serendipitous,'

Kings Park’s Senior Plant Breeder Digby Growns said.

‘The current dedicated breeding program with Anigozanthos in Kings Park and Botanic Garden began in 2007.

‘The initial focus of the program was to breed plants that were hardier for people’s gardens.

‘In 2013 a teal blue kangaroo paw started flowering from a cross that we did in 2012. I recall going out into the nursery and seeing the flower for the first time, and it had an absolute wow factor. I immediately knew we had something special and targeted the process that created that particular kangaroo paw, to make more of them and to make them disease tolerant for people's gardens.’

True blue flowers are rare in native plants and the commercial development of the ‘Masquerade’ kangaroo paw required controlled cross-pollination between green and red-and-green varieties over many years.

The main technique used to produce hybrids is a process called recurrent selection. This breeding system selects the top two to four progeny of each cross rated by the particular attribute. These progeny are then crossed between themselves, other promising progeny or backcrossed to their parents.

Species, cultivars and hybrids used as the original parents are selected for features such as extended flowering, flower colour, inflorescence presentation, hardiness to cold and heat, tolerance to arid conditions and low nutrients, and form.

‘We’re the only breeding program in the world that is focused on the environment. We want to breed plants that use less water, have less disease and provide habitat for local fauna. Kangaroo paws are really special plants. They are endemic to Western Australia, which means they are known nowhere else. By planting them in your garden you provide a food source for native honey-eating birds and the plants also make a really colourful addition to your garden.’

The blue kangaroo paw has been developed to be disease tolerant to ink-spot and rust, common issues affecting the plants species’ survival.

A limited number of first-release blue kangaroo paw will be available for sale through the Friends of Kings Park before distribution begins at select commercial nurseries in WA in 2022.

By developing new hybrids Kings Park aims to encourage the community to plant native plants in their gardens, thereby preserving our endemic plants, supporting biodiversity and creating gardens that can survive in our changing climate.

The blue kangaroo paw is not yet available to see in Kings Park.

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