Artistic research in breeding : The Bifrost Eucalyptus project



Jens Staal *, ð, þ


ðVIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research, Unit of Molecular Signal Transduction in Inflammation, VIB, Ghent, Belgium.

þDepartment of Biomedical Molecular Biology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.


* Corresponding author: E-mail:






Genetic signs of domestication of plants and animals date as far back as the oldest known evidence for other artistic expressions like painting, music and sculpture. Breeding is often seen as a science or a craft and is rarely considered art. The Bifrost art project aims to combine the spectacular bark and growth rate of the rainbow gum Eucalyptus deglupta with the cold hardiness of the cider gum Eucalyptus gunnii and possibly other cold-hardy species. The cold hardiness introgression should make it possible to grow amazing rainbow-colored trees in a European or North American climate. The project has been initiated and is expected to continue for decades or centuries in a distributed, participatory, manner. The project explores breeding as an art form, and through extension landscape and ecosystem manipulations that may last beyond the time when human kind has driven itself to its extinction. The project also questions commonly held beliefs about “pristine” and “natural” as being better than “artificial” and “anthropogenic”.




   - Breeding, domestication and the essence of culture

   - Arts and life sciences

   - Artistic expression through breeding, mutagenesis,
     transgenesis or chimeras

   - Plants challenging the species concept

 The Bifrost Eucalyptus project

   - Research, context and planning

   - Aims

   - Copyright and participatory development

   - Planned Execution phase 1 : cheating Heimdall

   - Planned Execution phase 2a : Cold-hardy rainbow gum –
     a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

   - Planned Execution phase 2b : Advanced intercross
     breeding and selection – finding offspring superior
     to the parents through transgressive segregation?

   - Planned Execution phase 2c : Rainbow-colored
     cider gum – an appropriately sized and attractive
     garden ornament?

   - Current status

   - Future perspectives and physical expositions

   Bibliography (new window for easy look up while reading)

   Supplemental information