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IMAGE: Calla Growers Aim For Competitive Edge

Caption: Sandra Simpson with the new minitubers in the culture room at Multiflora Laboratories Ltd.

From the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology For immediate release


Auckland flower research company Multiflora Laboratories Ltd is aiming to give New Zealand an edge in the competitive overseas calla lily market with bigger tubers and earlier-producing flowers.

Multiflora Laboratories has created small tubers of the lily in tissue culture. Growers will plant 120,000 of the mini-tubers this year.

"The mini-tubers are kept in tissue culture for six months longer than the normal tissue-cultured plant," managing director Sandra Simpson says. "Then they go into the ground for six months before being harvested. The result is that growers get larger than normal tubers, because the tubers have a 12-month head start."

The large tubers fetch better prices overseas and are expected to produce flowers earlier than usual. Mrs Simpson says the early flowering will help give New Zealand growers the edge against competitors in the lucrative markets of the United States, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Europe.

Calla exports are worth $7 million a year, making them New Zealand's second-most valuable cut flower crop after orchids. A top-quality stem can fetch NZ$3-$4 overseas. New Zealand's competitors include South American, African and Asian countries.

Callas are often seen in fashion magazine photographs and advertisements.

"The flowers have an art deco shape and because of this they are perceived as a fashion item, especially because they have a wide range of colours - whites, reds, pinks, oranges and yellows," Ms Simpson says. "They are very attractive and long lasting."

The mini-tubers have been developed in a project supported by Technology New Zealand - which invests in research into new products, processes or services - and in association with Crop & Food Research at Palmerston North.


Contact: * Sandra Simpson, Multiflora Laboratories Ltd, 3 Fenton St, Eden Tce, Auckland. Ph: (09) 303-1669. Fax: (09) 303-1614. Email:, * Nigel Metge, Technology New Zealand at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (Auckland Office), (09) 912-6730, or 021 454-095. Website:

Prepared on behalf of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology by ID Communications. Contact: Ian Carson (04) 477-2525.

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