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Pretty Peppers

Miniature bell peppers change from
purple to orange as they mature.

ARS scientists are fired up about spicy, colorful new peppers. Geneticist John R. Stommel, with the ARS Vegetable Laboratory, and collaborator Robert J. Griesbach, of the U.S. National Arboretum's Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit, both located in Beltsville, Maryland, have developed new ornamental and culinary pepper breeding lines that are pungent or mild and pleasing to the eye. Since the breeding program started in 1991, they have developed about 150 new ornamental breeding lines.

Compact orange pepper plants
bear upright, pungent fruit.

"These new lines—ranging from small Tabasco-type peppers and miniature bells to large, orange, banana-shaped peppers—were developed from a diverse collection of Capsicum landraces from India and select heirloom peppers," says Stommel. "They were selected for fruit and leaf characteristics and plant habit. We wanted showy, attractive plants for ornamental use, culinary use, or both." New breeding lines include bite-sized miniature bell peppers that are hot or mild and are available in an array of colors. Some new lines have brilliant purple foliage and produce hot-to-mild, yellow-to-red peppers on upright or trailing plants from mid- to late summer. The peppers are relatively easy to grow as container or landscape plants.

Dazzling dwarf ornamental pepper plant.

The scientists are cooperating with the Pan American Seed Company to develop and market these peppers for commercial use.—By Tara Weaver-Missick, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff. This research is part of Plant, Microbial, and Insect Genetic Resources, Genomics and Genetic Improvement, an ARS National Program (#301) described on the World Wide Web at John R. Stommel is with the USDA-ARS Vegetable Laboratory, 10300 Baltimore Ave., Building 010A, BARC-West, Beltsville, MD 20705; phone (301) 504-5583, fax (301) 504-5555.

"Pretty Peppers" was published in the May 2001 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

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