Osmanthus fragrans ‘Cai Ye Gui’, A Variegated Cultivar

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American Society for Horticultural Science

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Osmanthus fragrans Lour., commonly known as sweet osmanthus, sweet olive, tea olive, and fragrant olive, is a species belonging to Oleaceae. It was originally named Olea fragrans Thunb. (Murray, 1784). Sweet osmanthus is native to Asia. It comes from the Himalayas through southern China, southern Japan, Southeast Asia and continues as far south as Cambodia and Thailand (Chang et al., 1996). Sweet osmanthus is an evergreen shrub or small tree that grows up to 3–12 m tall. Leaves are 7–15 cm long and 3–5 cm broad with an entire or serrulate margin. It produces strongly fragrant and small flower clusters in an assortment of white, pale yellow, yellow, or orange-yellow colors in late summer and autumn. The purple-black drupe fruit is 10–15 mm long and matures in spring. The flowers of sweet osmanthus have long been used for traditional Chinese medicine as an herbal tea remedy, in Chinese cuisine as osmanthus-scented jam, and in northern India as an insect repellent (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 2017; Zhou, 2008). Elsewhere in the world, it is cultivated as an ornamental plant for its deliciously fragrant flowers in gardens in Asia, Europe, and North America. Several taxa with various flower colors have been selected for garden use. In Japan, O. fragrans var. thunbergii produces gold-orange flowers (Makino, 1927). A variety with red-orange flowers is named O. fragrans var. aurantiaeus (Makino, 1902) or O. aurantiacus (Nakai and Koidzumi, 1922). Osmanthus fragrans var. ginmokusei (silver osmanthus) is a white-blossoming subspecies, whereas O. fragrans var. kinmokusei (gold osmanthus) is a subspecies producing orange flowers (Chang et al., 1996; Huxley, 1992). More than 200 sweet osmanthus cultivars are named in China, e.g., O. fragrans ‘Yinbi Shuanghui’, ‘Qiannan Guifei’, ‘Huaan Tianxiang’, ‘Meiyuan Bai’, and ‘Zhuye Yin’ (Xiang, 2008; Xiang et al., 2014; Zang et al., 2014). In this paper, a new cultivar named O. fragrans ‘Cai Ye Gui’ (syn. O. fragrans ‘Variegatus’) is described and being released for germplasm purposes. It is a selection from O. fragrans seedlings with variegated foliage. It was discovered by Mr. Jianxiong Yi, the owner of Yuntian Nursery (Zhuzhou, Hunan, China), and has been licensed to Jiangsu Ao-Yang Ecological Agriculture and Forestry Ltd. (Suzhou, Jiangsu, China).

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