First Blue Chrysanthemum Bloomed In Japan Thanks To Science And Two Genes

japan world's first blu crysanthem
Naonobu Noda | NARO

Each year, on 9th September, Japanese people celebrate the Chrysanthemum Day (Kiku no Sekku). Since chrysanthemum has been a symbol of the Emperor of Japan and the royal family for a long time, the royal gardens will be opened to the public and this year, for the first time ever, people may see something extraordinary and unique: a true blue chrysanthemum.


Thanks to science and 13 years of research, this flower has been genetically modified and has finally given with a true blue colour.

This national symbol, with a high historical, cultural and commercial value, is already available in nature in several colours: red, yellow, white and more. Now a new tone has been added and we have to thanks Naonobu Noda from Japan’s National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (also known as “The Institute of Vegetable and Floriculture Sciences, NARO”).

Like for other flowers such as roses and lilies, chrysanthemums demonstrated to be a very “tough subject to change”, due to the “recalcitrant and unpredictable expression of introduced genes”.

It’s never happened before (previous attempts produced just violet flowers). But now, for the first time and after years of failures, NARO in collaboration with Suntory Global Innovation Center Ltd. succeeded in giving the flower a rare natural blue colour. They took genes from two very blue flowers (butterfly peas and Canterbury bells) and introduced them into the chrysanthemum. The result? The natural pigment has been modified, creating a colourful molecule called “delphinidin”.

world's first blu crysanthem japan
Naonobu Noda | NARO

Due to the interaction between this molecule and the chrysanthemum’s other colourless compounds, only petals turned a brilliant “true blue” (but it’s still a stunning and probably satisfying result Japanese will be proud of – Ed.).

The research had been so successful that Naonobu Noda and his team published it on the Science Advances journal. Now this same technique – that has been considered simpler than they expected – might be used on other flowers. Despite that, they don’t have any plans yet to sell the “newborn flower” because genetically modified organisms are not easy to commercialise.

Do you like flowers and the magical and relaxing colour of the ocean? Now you can have both thanks to one single flower: Japanese “true blue” chrysanthemum.


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