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Congratulations Linda Laughner

At this year's 137th annual convention of the Society of American Florists, one of our outstanding plant breeders, Linda Laughner, was recognized with a top honor.

Linda received the 2022 Gold Medal Award from SAF, which honors the originator or introducer of a widely distributed plant or flower that has become established with significant horticultural and commercial value.

Though she now enjoys life in retirement, Linda has been the world's premier breeder of snapdragons and the pioneer who made ethylene screening part of the breeding process for extended vase life in cut flowers. She began her career at PanAmerican Seed's Elburn, Illinois, USA, facility right after graduation from Penn State University in 1985. She joined one of the company's first group of breeders to work on cut flowers at the newly built facility.

Linda took over PanAmerican Seed's snapdragon breeding from Fred Winkler, who developed the first F1 hybrid cut flower snapdragon in 1941. What a legacy! Her methodical backcross breeding made significant genetic improvements in stem and flower quality, vase life, and uniformity, which made it easier for growers to schedule and produce their crops.

Because there were no snapdragon growers near Elburn, Linda relocated to our Santa Paula, California, USA, facility to serve cut flower growers more effectively.

Throughout her 36+ years as a breeder, she took a once 20-variety class assortment to more than 50 varieties across four series, namely Potomac, Maryland, Monaco, and Cool. In Santa Paula, Linda also diversified into dianthus, developing both single-species and innovative interspecific hybrids into multiple series. Currently, dianthus as a class ranks among PanAmerican Seed's most important crops, thanks to Linda's dedication and hard work.

Osteospermum was another of her crowning achievements. Undeterred by the growing challenges and biotic stress on her breeding populations, she bred Serenity, Voltage, and the award-winning Blue Eyed Beauty osteospermum varieties for Ball FloraPlant, setting a new standard for color, performance, and heat tolerance in vegetative varieties. Following these introductions, she developed the Akila osteospermum series from seed, initially with just basic colors of white, lavender and purple. Today this series is available in vibrant mixes and colors, including yellow, red, gold and more.

Congratulations, Linda, on receiving such a prestigious honor from the industry. Your work continues to make a significant impact in the world of floriculture.

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