Rutgers University researchers have a new and improved version of an old tree favorite in New Jersey. It is a variety of a dogwood species with a more bright and vibrant pink flower that is also more disease-resistant. .

The new dogwood is called Scarlet Fire, a variety of Asian dogwood that's been a long time coming, according to Tom Molnar, a plant breeder at Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.

"Through breeding, we have been able to enhance that color," he said, adding that they can "tweak" that color and can introduce disease resistance.

But besides being beautiful, this tree is hardier. Native dogwood trees have been plagued by blight and diseases. Molnar says the Asian species is really adapted to New Jersey, and that is primarily where the diseases came from.

"It can grow in New Jersey, it can grow down south, brilliant to the Carolinas, into Ohio, into New England. So it has a pretty wide range."

Molnar says it's the product of a longterm effort.

"The commitment to the breeding program over many decades is why we are having some breakthroughs now," he says. "I have been working on it for about 10 years. So Rutgers has been dedicated developing dogwoods for nearly half a century and has released a number of really exciting dogwoods over the years."

Molnar says Scarlet Fire is available from a number of nurseries, including RareFind Nursery, Wayside Gardens and Spring Hill Nursery.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5

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