"We are beginning to look at the genetics of the various different traits, such as how prickles are inherited," Byrne said. "So we are getting to the molecular level, and one reason to do that is to hopefully find a marker to indicate whether a plant has a certain gene or not."
The researcher plans to look at other traits that determine whether a rose is easy to grow in a landscape such as disease resistance, fragrances and the everblooming trait.
But that's not the only goal for Texas rose breeding, Byrne noted. The program is establishing a large germplasm collection to add diversity to the breeding efforts. Byrne has traveled to China twice and is cooperating with horticulturists there to collect and evaluate roses from their native land. And with Dr. Brent Pemberton, horticulturist at the Experiment Station in Overton, Byrne has evaluated about 300 roses wild, commercial and breeding lines for resistance to black spot, a common malady for home growers.
Some avid home rose growers may do as Bayse did and toy with breeding their own types of roses by crossing one with another, Byrne said. But most just want a beautiful plant with lots of colorful flowers.
"You want a plant that you don't have to take care of beyond an occasional pruning," Byrne said, "one that has good growth and colors in beautiful condition throughout the year."