Cut flowering carnation stems (Dianthus caryophyllus L. cvs. Scania and White Sim) were held in water for 7 days at 20°C, after which a low hydraulic conductance and a high number of bacteria were found in the basal 5-cm stem segment. This suggested that bacteria may play a role in determining flower longevity. When taking special precautions, it was possible to keep flowering stems sterile until flower senescence. Petal wilting in the sterile stems occurred at thesame time as in non-sterile controls. Inclusion of antibacterial chemicals in the water also prevented accumulation of bacteria in the solution and in flower stems, but had no effect on flower longevity. Inclusion of bacteria, originating from the vase water of carnation flowers, in vase water at a number that is normally reached after 7 days (107cfu ml-1) did not significantly hasten flower senescence. It is concluded that the bacterial population developing in the stems of cut carnation flowers during vase life leads to vascular occlusion but this apparently has little effect on flower longevity. © 1991.
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