SERA27: Nursery Crop and Landscape Systems

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

SERA27: Nursery Crop and Landscape Systems

Duration: 10/01/2017 to 09/30/2022

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

Plant breeding and cultivar introduction is an important component to horticulture programs at many universities, with many new and exciting genotypes entering the industry based upon public ornamental breeding programs. The introduction of new plant material, whether through traditional breeding programs or plant exploration expeditions, has been and will continue to be an integral part of boosting profitability of ornamental horticulture in the United States. The desire for new plant material is driven by the continual quest for unique and novel new introductions from both professionals and consumers.  In addition to traditional academic breeding programs, many nurseries and greenhouses have invested in the discovery and development of new plant releases and are using this technique to gain market share through development of brands focused on species or phenotype(s). Many of these new woody and herbaceous plants that are introduced include extensive marketing programs, exclusive growing agreements, protective plant patents, and national distribution channels. Traditionally, some commercially developed releases are not widely tested and most have not been independently tested in unbiased trials, especially in the southern United States which is a challenging environment.

Most Southern Region universities are engaged in landscape plant evaluations or have active plant breeding programs and seek ways to determine the adaptability range of these plants. This well-established network also provides a channel for a wide variety of plants that fall outside of the marketing channels dominated by large-scale commercial operations.  While these plants may be lesser-known, they may be quite worthy of use in the landscape for specific regions. When information is not available on the performance of these plants in the southern region, a coordinated system of independent evaluation, along with dissemination of the resulting information to nursery and landscape professionals, becomes invaluable. This is particularly true when assessing abiotic (e.g. cold, heat, drought) tolerance of a taxa across the region, which includes USDA Hardiness Zones 6a-10a.

SERA027 aims to evaluate genotypes of ornamental plants to gather a better understanding of performance in the region and present results of trials to an audience including peer educators and green industry members. All working group members possess the technical skills and resources to trial plants submitted for testing and when a plant is submitted all participants receive a correspondence that includes what data is needed (e.g. mortality, abiotic stress damage, flowering characteristics, pest and disease damage, and growth characteristics).

 A number of the plants evaluated by the group have gained common status by the gardening community. These plants include Cephalotaxus harringtonia (1998), Lagerstroemia 'Pocomoke' (1999), Lagerstroemia 'Chickasaw' (1999), Styrax japonicas 'Emerald Pagoda' (1998), Illicium mexicanum 'Aztec Fire' (1999), Bulbine caulescens (2000), Magnolia 'Jon Jon' (2001), ×Sinocalycanthus raulstonii 'Hartlage Wine' (2001), Daphniphyllum macropodum (2002), Ceanothus ×delilianus 'Gloire de Versailles' (2005), Callicarpa dichomata 'Duet' (2007), Syringa 'Betsy Ross' (2007), Acer japonicum ‘Hefner’s Red Select’ (2013), Acer japonicum  ‘Bihou’ (2013), Hydrangea arborescens ‘Invincible Spirit’ (2013), and Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ (2013).

This project relates to the following Southern Region Priority Areas for Multi-state Research Activities:

·         Goal 1- An agricultural system that is highly competitive in the global economy

o   Subsection e - New plant and animal species for agricultural production

·         Goal 4 - Greater harmony between agriculture and the environment

o   Subsection b - Natural resource and ecosystem management

o   Subsection c - Multiple uses of agricultural lands

o   Subsection d - Environmentally benign agricultural operations

o   Subsection e - Integrated pest management systems, including biologically-based tactics

·         Goal 5 - Enhanced economic opportunity and quality of life for Americans

o   Subsection f - Agriculture related social and consumer concerns.

 In addition, participation in this project contributes to the professional development of faculty involved.


  1. Evaluation of selected plants at multiple trial locations over a 3- to 5-year period to determine adaptability across the region.
  2. At the end of the evaluation period, regional results will be summarized with quantitative data, qualitative comments, and an overall rating for the plant.
  3. Annually, meet to share and discuss quantitative and qualitative results collected from the multiple trial sites.
  4. Collectively and individually disseminate information gained from the plant evaluation system such as cold hardiness, heat tolerance, growth rate, environmental adaptation limits, etc. to a wide variety of audiences.
  5. Develop a regional plan to evaluate the effect of climate change on landscape plant performance.

Procedures and Activities

To date, 71 taxa have been distributed for evaluation. This includes 9 taxa since the previous renewal in October 2012.

  • Acer japonicum ‘Bihou’ – Matthew Chappell (2013)
  • Acer japonicum ‘Hefner’s Red Select’ – Matthew Chappell (2013)
  • Acer japonicum ‘Fjellheim’ – Matthew Chappell (2013)
  • Artemisia arborescens – Gene Blythe (2013)
  • Hemerocallis ‘Suburban Nancy Gale’ – Gary Bachman (2014)
  • Magnolia ‘Sunspire’ – Donna Fare (2015)
  • Magnolia ‘Butterflies’ – Donna Fare (2015)
  • Centaurea gymnocarpa – Gene Blythe (2015)
  • Lagerstroemia ‘Enduring Summer’ – Ed Bush (2013)


Concluding reports have been written or are being prepared for 23 taxa. A Louisiana State University AgCenter ( website was established to provide information on current and historical efforts of our group and continues to serve as a repository of plant information.  Additionally, a symposium series was initiated in 2013 as a component of the annual meeting.  Group participants use this symposium as a forum to disseminate information regarding results from plant materials evaluated by SERA027 as well as other regionally adapted germplasm. In 2013, ‘The Sustainable Beauty Symposium’ was conducted during the annual meeting held in Asheville, North Carolina. Over 50 assorted garden professionals and enthusiasts attended.  Participants reported that the symposium had a value of $51-150 and would increase their garden spending by $51-100.  In 2014, ‘The 2nd Annual Margie Jenkins Azalea Garden Horticulture Lecture’ culminated the annual meeting held in Hammond, Louisiana. Sixty percent of completed surveys were from industry professionals while 40% were from home/Master Gardeners.  All professional horticulture attendees reported a positive economic impact to their business from attending the program. In 2016, ‘Southern Garden All-Stars:  Developing the New Plants for Southern Gardens’ was presented as a component of the annual meeting held in Louisville, Kentucky. Ninety-eight percent of program participants reported that they would purchase plants mentioned during the symposium.  Native plants had the highest level of interest followed by Osmanthus. One hundred percent of participants increased their knowledge of horticulture and placed a value of $30-35 on the symposium.  Content from the symposium was compiled and edited by the University of Kentucky and can be accessed at:

Individual committee members who introduce plants for evaluation are responsible for requesting data from participating collaborators according to criteria they deem most appropriate for each plant, compiling the data that has been submitted, and preparing a final report. Appropriate SERA027 participants may be requested to periodically prepare summary reports on plants that have been evaluated or are under evaluation, and to present evaluation reports at relevant industry conferences, trade shows, field days, and associated events.



Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Our goal is to evaluate and generate reports on a minimum of 15 taxa over the next five years. Additionally, we will promote those taxa that excel in regional trials across a wide range of in-person, online and passive (e.g. newsletter) communications. Through our public symposia, held in conjunction with the annual business meeting, we hope to reach 500 individuals (across five unique markets) to deliver information on the working group and plants evaluated by our members.
  • Through the identification of taxa with improved biotic tolerance, reduce the use of pesticides in landscape and production environments. Comments: A major goal of the working group is to identify taxa with improved abiotic and biotic tolerances to southeastern U.S. landacspes and promote these plants across a wide range of green industry groups including growers, landscape architects, garden enthusiasts, extension personnel, etc. Based on information provided by the working group, a number of taxa have been adopted into mainstream production and use since the inception of SERA-27. Our goal is to continue this process and as a result incur the following outcomes and impacts listed above and below.
  • Through the identification of taxa with improved abiotic tolerance, reduce the need for replacement plants in the landscape and hence improve consumer confidence in gardening.
  • Improve the accuracy of information delivered to the public on performance of taxa either within a state or regionally. This information can be integrated into existing commercial or public publications/branding materials.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

Information gained from the plant evaluation system such as cold hardiness, heat tolerance, growth rate, environmental adaptation limits, etc. will be disseminated collectively and individually to producer, landscaper and consumer audiences via scientific articles, industry trade magazines, webpages and presentations in extension and popular information channels. Additionally, a number of working group members teach formal university plant-based courses or Master Gardener courses, in which evaluation results will be integrated.


Officers elected for 2017 - 2018 were Matthew Chappell (University of Georgia) – Chair; Anthony Witcher (Tennessee State University) – Secretary; and Lisa Alexander (USDA-National Arboretum) -Executive Committee. Ed Bush (Louisiana State University) is Chair of the Plant Evaluation Committee. Administrative Advisors: Patricia Knight (Mississippi State University) and Sherry Larkin (University of Florida). CSREES Representative: Thomas A. Bewick.

Guidelines for SERA-27 Officers:

CHAIR The Chair is responsible for coordinating activities throughout the year, working with the Plant Evaluation Committee to ensure plant evaluation information is collected and compiled, and planning the working program for the next meeting. She/he may delegate or request assistance from the Secretary or Executive Committee Member to accomplish these objectives or making recommendations and decisions as needed throughout the year.

SECRETARY The Secretary is responsible for taking minutes of the meeting and distributing them in coordination with the IEG Chair and Administrative Advisor. The Secretary also works with the Chair to develop an annual report that is submitted to the Administrative Advisor for posting on the NIMSS system. The minutes and annual report must be written, reviewed, approved and posted on the website and the NIMSS system within 60 days after the annual meeting. It is the intent of the SERA-27 for the Secretary to serve as the Chair the next year.

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBER The Executive Committee members functions as a member of the Executive Committee in decision-making between annual meetings and to assist the Chair as assigned. It is the intent of the SERA-27 for the Executive Committee Member to serve as the Secretary the next year.

MEETING HOST The host for our annual meeting is responsible for making arrangements for meeting space, local tours/events, a hotel, etc. The Host coordinates with the Chair regarding local requirements for the formal program/agenda for the annual meeting. The Host and/or Chair provides the details of the local arrangements, travel, and agenda to the Administrative Advisor who maintains the e-mail addresses of members. The Host/Chair may also send such information to the members by mail. The Administrative Advisor can provide Email addresses.

PLANT EVALUATION COMMITTEE CHAIR The chair of the standing Plant Evaluation Committee reminds members to submit evaluation data at the appropriate time and in the predetermined format, logs plants made available or to be made available for distribution, records who requested each plant, and compiles and summarizes the data annually for the SERA-27 meeting.

Literature Cited

Adams, R.P., M.A. Arnold, A.R. King, G.C. Denny, and D. Creech.  2012.  Taxodium (Cupressaceae): one, two, or three species? Evidence from DNA sequences and terpenoids.  Phytologia 94(2):159-168.

Adams, R.P., M.A. Arnold, A.R. King, and G.C. Denny.  2012.  Geographic variation in the leaf essential oils of Taxodium (Cupressaceae).  Phytologia 94(1):53-70.

Adams, R.P., M.A. Arnold, A.R. King, J.J. Griffin, J.K. Iles, G.W. Knox, G.V. McDonald, and G. Niu.  2014.  Environmentally induced variation in the leaf volatile terpenes of Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich (Cupressaceae).  Phytologia 96(3):167-177.

Adams, R.P., M.A. Arnold, A.R. King, J.J. Griffin, J.K. Iles, G.W. Knox, G.V. McDonald, and G. Niu.  2014.  Environmentally induced variation in the leaf volatile terpenes of Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich (Cupressaceae).  Phytologia 96(3):167-177.

Adams, R.P., S.T. Carver, and M.A. Arnold.  2015.  Preliminary study of variation in leaf volatile oil of Borrichia frutescens (L.) DC along the Texas gulf coast.  Phytologia 97(3):164-169.

Adkins, C.R., S.K. Braman, M. Chappell, J.-H. Chong, J.F. Derr, W.C. Dunwell, S.D. Frank, A.F. Fulcher, F.A. Hale, W.E. Klingeman, G.W. Knox, A.V. LeBude, M.L. Paret, J.C. Neal, J.R. Sidebottom, N.A. Ward, S.A. White, J. L. Williams-Woodward, and A.S. Windham. 2014. IPM for Shrubs in Southeastern US Nursery Production. S.A. White and W.E. Klingemann, Eds. Knoxville, TN: Southern Nursery IPM Working Group. Download at pdf.

Arnold, M.A., D.L. Bryan, R. Cabrera, G.C. Denny, J.J. Griffin, J.K. Iles, A.R. King, G.W. Knox, L. Lombardini, G.V. McDonald, C.B. McKenney, D.T. Montague, G. Niu, H.B. Pemberton, A.L. Purnell, L.J. Shoemake, D.K. Struve., and W.T. Watson.  2012.  Provenance experiments with baldcypress, live oak, and sycamore illustrate the potential for selecting more sustainable urban trees.  Arboriculture and Urban Forestry 38(5):205-213.

Blythe, E.K., W. Dunwell, E. Bush, J.W. Adelberg, M. Arnold, R. Bracy, Y. Chen, D. Fare, W. Klingeman, P. Knight, G. Knox, A.V. LeBude, J. Lindstrom, A.X. Niemiera, A. Owings, J. Robbins, J. Ruter, and T.P. West. 2010 (published 2011). Nursery crop and landscape systems plant evaluations by SERA-27 in the southeastern U.S.: 2010 update. Comb. Proc. Intl. Plant Prop. Soc. 60:607-609.

Carver, S.T., M.A. Arnold, D.H. Byrne, A.R. Armitage, R.D. Lineberger, and A.R. King.  2014.  Growth and flowering responses of sea marigold to daminozide, paclobutrazol, or uniconazole applied as drenches or sprays. J. Plant Growth Regulation 33(3):626-631. DOI 10.1007/s00344-014-9411-7

Carver, S.T., M.A. Arnold, D.H. Byrne, R.D. Lineberger, A.R. King, and A.R. Armitage.  2016.  Variation in vegetative and floral characteristics of potential commercial significance in four native Texas coastal species.  Phytologia 98(4): 250-276.

Chappell, M., J-H. Chong, J.F. Derr, W.C. Dunwell, A. Fulcher, F. Hale, F. Peduto Hand, W. Klingeman, G.W. Knox, A.V. LeBude, C. Marble, J.C. Neal, A. Rateike, G.M. Weaver, S.A. White, J.L. Williams-Woodward, A.S. Windham. 2017. IPM for Shrubs in Southeastern US Nursery Production: Volume II. M. Chappell, G.W. Knox, and G. Fernandez, Eds. Knoxville, TN: Southern Nursery IPM Working Group. Download at iTunes or pdf.

Denny, G.C. and M.A. Arnold.  2014.  Evaluation of drought tolerance of selected provenances of Taxodium.  Journal for Arid Land Studies24(1):223-230.

King, A.R., M.A. Arnold, D.F. Welsh, and W.T. Watson.  2012.  Developmental stage and growth regulator concentration differentially affect vegetative propagation of select baldcypress clones.  HortScience 47(2):238-248.

King, A.R., M.A. Arnold, D.F. Welsh, and W.T. Watson.  2013.  Secondary branch angles and potential topophytic effects of vegetatively propagated clones of Taxodium.  J. Environ. Hort. 31(2):84-88.

Knox, G.W., J. Lindstrom, T. Ranney, E. Bush, A. Owings, W. Dunwell, and R. Beeson. 2012. 'Jon Jon' magnolia: A late-flowering deciduous magnolia recommended for zones 6b to 8b in the southeastern U.S. Proc. Southern Nursery Assn. Res. Conf., 57th Annu. Rpt. p. 219-224.

Owen, J.S., A. Fulcher, A. LeBude and M. Chappell. 2016. Hydrangea production: Cultivar selection and general practices to consider when propagating and growing hydrangea. University of Tennessee Cooperative Extension Publication PB 1840-A.

Ruter, J., M. Chappell and B. Pennisi. 2014. New Flowers for Georgia Gardens. University of Georgia Cooperative Extension E-bulletin CD-067. 


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

North Carolina State University, USDA-ARS
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