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Modification of flower color and fragrance

Throughout the history flowers have always had special symbolic meaning. They were inspiration for many poets and artists and many cultures had goddesses of flowers. Their colors and beauty were not only inspiration for many but they have also become the best decoration for various occasions and the most beautiful present for the loved ones. This all has led to something unexpected – improving flowers’ beauty with modification of their color and fragrance.

The Basics


Image source: www.flowerbasket.com.au

A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants. The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs.[1] The scientists have tried to genetically modify flowers in a way of improving their smell and colour. A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.[2]

Modification of flower color and fragrance

Changing fragrance

Floral scent has an important role in the reproductive processes of many plants and a considerable economic value in guaranteeing yield and quality of many crops. It also enhances the aesthetic properties of ornamental plants and cut flowers. Many floral scent volatiles fall into the terpenoid or phenylpropanoid/benzenoid classes of compounds. Although the biochemistry of floral scent is still a relatively new field of investigation, in the past decade investigators have begun to identify ‘scent genes’. Several of these genes, most of which, but not all, encode enzymes that directly catalyze the formation of volatile terpenoid or phenylpropanoid/benzenoid compounds, have now been used to manipulate, through genetic engineering techniques, the mix of volatiles emitted from the flowers of several plant species. The outcomes of these experiments, which are discussed here, have indicated that the genetic engineering approach to altering floral scents has potential [3]

Changing color

The biosynthetic pathways of flavonoids and carotenoids have been well established, and the biosynthetic genes have been mostly isolated. Metabolic engineering of their biosynthetic pathways has provided not only novel colored or health-beneficial plants but also excellent models to study the efficacy of such engineering. In order to achieve a specific color by accumulating a corresponding compound, it is necessary to upregulate the pathway leading to the compound and downregulate the competing pathway. The regulation of gene expression has to be optimized in a target crop as well.[4]


The benefits of modification of flower color and fragrance are multiple. They can go from simply beautifying the plants to making more money for the flower producers and flower shops. The research put into genetic changing of flowers can also bring new discoveries in the area of genetic modification of plants and genetics as a science in general.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flower#Usage
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_organism#Uses
[3] Trends in Biotechnology Volume 25, Issue 3, March 2007, Pages 105-110
[4] ‘Seeing is believing: engineering anthocyanin and carotenoid biosynthetic pathways’ by: Yoshikazu Tanaka and Akemi Ohmiya


AUTHOR: Josip Ivanovic