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Flower Power

As you scan the UC Davis Spring Course Catalogue, you can’t help but be drawn to one particular class name. Nestled right between the harsh-sounding political science classes and the systematic, detail-oriented plant science classes sits PLS 006, also known as Flower Power. Dr. Heiner Lieth gives students the opportunity to explore the application of the art and science of the beauty and perfection of flowers. If you have ever given or received a bouquet of beautiful, blooming roses you have experienced first-hand the power of flowers.

Citrus Plant in Dr. Lieth's Lab

Dr. Lieth began teaching PLS 006 with the intention of demystifying floriculture in a fresh and entertaining way. “Anyone can experience the beauty of flowers, but most students are unaware of the direct power they can have,” he said, “My goal in this course is to give students a understanding of their full power by revealing where they come from and how they can be applied to daily life.”

So, are you curious to know about the life behind the stunning bouquet of assorted flowers on your dining room table? Here are a few fun facts taken from Dr. Lieth’s curriculum:

•Firstly, a flower’s development begins with finding the perfect sequence of genes to create a flawless, disease-resistant, lasting flower. Scientists manipulate genes in order to find a combination that does not spare the flower any quality. Specific genes control for specific heights, leaves, shapes, leaf-to-flower ratios and colors.

•In order to make a flower consumer-friendly, it must survive for a relatively long time. Age genes can also be manipulated; however, flowers that have been modified to defeat senescence lose their ability to produce their natural, pleasant scent.

•A blue rose has yet to be invented! When injected into roses, the pigment from naturally blue flowers mixes with the rose’s chemical makeup and turns the rose a shade of purple.

•Lastly, remove that beautiful bouquet from your kitchen immediately! The plant hormone ethylene is released from fruits and vegetables as they age, and can shorten the lives of neighboring flowers.

In addition to being informative and practical, there is never a dull moment in this 2-unit course. Dr. Lieth keeps weekly lectures exciting by adding guest speakers, floral arrangement workshops and creative assignments to the syllabus. “I tried to pack as much fun into the course as possible. I believe that education at the university level would really benefit from massive change in class structure,” he said, “It is important to be accommodating to the students and provide them with a structure that caters to them and allows them to achieve and maximize learning.”

In addition, Dr. Lieth firmly believes that students would be more interested to explore career paths in floriculture if there were

Dr. Lieth

more opportunities to learn about the field. UC Davis is one of the top plant science research centers in the nation, yet many students are unaware of all of the current projects concerning plants and flowers. Much of Dr. Lieth’s research focuses on creating the most efficient greenhouse production methods. He has researched the production of various flower types, including roses, Easter lilies and gerberas. Core research such as this is what caused the flower industry to evolve into what it is today. In PLS 006, Dr. Lieth shares this evolution and encourages students to take advantage of the power of flowers. You’d be amazed at the impact an arrangement of flowers can have on someone’s day. But don’t take my word for it… Go find out for yourself!

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