Mark Brand, a professor of horticulture and plant breeding in the University of Connecticut’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, was recently granted a patent for his specially bred purple-leaf sand cherry. The purple-leaf sand cherry is a hybrid plant from the rose family. In spring, it blooms with an array of delicate light pink flowers and later produces deep burgundy foliage for the summer.
The problem with typical forms of this attractive shrub is that its size, seven to 10 feet tall, quickly becomes too large to be used effectively in many landscaping situations.
Brand developed a plant that is about half the size of the traditional purple-leaf sand cherry by changing its genetic parentage. The purple-leaf sand cherry is a hybrid of two different plants. Brand swapped one of its parent plants out with a smaller version of it that is accustomed to growing in a more restricted area. This switch resulted in a more compact and manageable plant.
The new cross maintains the same aesthetic elements as the traditional plant as well as being easy to manage and grow with minimal care.
Brand’s plant also has dense branching down to the ground which prevents it from becoming too “leggy” or open at the bottom, which detracts from its ornamental appeal.
The plant has been coined “Darkstar” by Monrovia Nurseries which has the license for Brand’s invention.
“Consumers across the country are looking for plants that fit their lifestyles. Prunus DarkStar® fits this criteria will its smaller more refined size, making pruning, care and placement in a smaller yard so much easier,” says Jonathan Pedersen, vice president of business development & IP at Monrovia.
“The new purple-leaf sand cherry should be a popular plant with consumers because it is easy to grow, compact in stature and offers multi-season interest through its light pink spring flowers and red summer foliage,” says Brand.
With assistance from technology transfer experts within UConn’s Office of the Vice President for Research, Brand has received several other plant patents.
Brand received his PhD from the Ohio State University. He is currently working on breeding new varieties of aroniaberry, a new nutraceutical crop, as well as improved forms of native shrub species for the northeast region of the United States.