About 110 million roses will be sold in the US on February 14 2003, according to Jay Stawarz, Executive Secretary for the International Cut Flower Industry Association. And it's likely that most of those will be red. But would a rose of any other color smell as sweet? Those in the quest for the blue rose — the "holy grail" of horticulture — seem to think so.

In the world of blooms, blue is a particularly difficult hue to achieve because of the complex genetic and environmental cues that lead to its expression. The blueness seen in flowers like the petunia depend on the synthesis of a pigment called delphinidin, or 3',5'-hydroxylated anthocyanin. But co-pigments such as flavonol or flavones must also be present to prompt a blue shift in the anthocyanin absorption spectrum. And the vacuolar pH must be high to produce a true blue color.

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