About Us

Vibrant purple phlox flowers in a green field

The Ornamental Plant Germplasm Center (OPGC) preserves the genetic diversity of herbaceous ornamental crop plants through the dedicated effort of its staff, students and stakeholders. The Center, located within the Columbus campus of The Ohio State University, is hosted by the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science. Physical facilities and human resources complement each other in fulfilling the Center's mission. 

Our physical facilities are located at 670 Vernon L. Tharp St. in Columbus, Ohio and include:

  • The Main Building: consists of approximately 8000 sq ft of workspace. This includes space for seed germination, testing, x-ray analysis of seeds, seed cleaning, and seed storage in a 30x30 ft walk-in cooler, as well as office space. In addition, a small area provides support for general laboratory work such as biochemical analyses, tissue culture, sample preparation for microscopy, etc.

  • The Greenhouse: which has 10,000 sq ft of space for plant culture and seed production. The greenhouse environment is controlled via an Argus system.

  • The Container and Raised Bed Nursery: a fenced-in gravel area immediately north of the greenhouses has been developed into a nursery for growing plants in raised beds or in containers. A hoophouse provides control of rain and shade. Raised beds differ in soil types to facilitate growth of plants requiring unique substrates.

Origins of the OPGC at Ohio State

The concept of a national collection of herbaceous ornamental plants within the United States came about indirectly, as a result of a 1977 decision by the OSU Board of Trustees to establish the D.C. Kiplinger Chair in Floriculture shortly after the death of Dr Kiplinger, a distinguished scientist who had served on OSU’s floriculture faculty since 1937. The Chair was created as a temporary, rotating position to be filled by individuals with a record of significant achievements in floricultural education and research.

The first appointee to the Kiplinger Chair, Dr. H. Marc Cathey (1980–81), recommended the establishment of a national germplasm collection and conservation program for herbaceous ornamentals as an important tool for meeting future floricultural needs.

In 1992, representatives of two trade associations, the Society of American Florists (SAF) and the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA), began a coordinated effort to assemble information on the need for federal funding for ornamental crop research and presented that information to the US Congress.

In 1995, two faculty members at OSU, Dr. Miller McDonald and Dr. Jim Metzger, proposed that OSU act upon Cathey’s 1981 recommendation by establishing a new center within the University structure, and that such an effort be built upon a partnership among OSU, the USDA/ARS National Plant Germplasm System. and the floricultural industry. During 1996, plans for the center were communicated to the Ohio Florists’ Association (OFA), which brought it to the attention of the leadership of the ARS, SAF and ANLA. At the end of 1996, OSU’s plans were included as a key part of a larger funding proposal for federal research support that SAF and ANLA presented to Congress. [Editor's note: In 2014, ANLA joined with OFA to become AmericanHort].

Through the efforts of trade associations and academia, and strong support from within the USDA, the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative was created in 1998. One of the stipulations of the Initiative was that a center for ornamental plant germplasm conservation be established in Ohio and that funding for the new center be directed through the ARS.

Dr. Jim Corfield was hired as Interim Director in November 1999 to oversee startup of the germplasm center. Daily operations of the OPGC as we know it today officially began in the spring of 2001 with the hiring of Director David Tay and Curator Susan Stieve. Ever since, the OPGC has sought to conserve and develop germplasm of value to the Floriculture and Nursery industry.

A more detailed account of the origin of the OPGC can be found in this 2004 article by D. Tay, M. Widrlechner and J. L. Corfield - Establishment of a gene bank for herbaceous ornamental plants.