Justin J. Lombardoni, Ph.D.

Justin Lombardoni
Ornamental Plant Breeder
(847) 835-8352

My work is focused on breeding novel ornamental cultivars that are well-suited for the harsh environmental conditions of the Upper Midwest, with a preference for native taxa.  Traits of interest in our breeding program include new flower characteristics, unique growth habits, disease/pest resistance, heat/drought tolerance, and cold hardiness.  While our breeding program primarily utilizes traditional breeding methods wherein crosses are chosen subjectively and made by hand, these methods are supplemented by chemical mutagenesis to introduce genetic and phenotypic variation into the program.  Promising accessions are studied closely with assistance from the Plant Evaluation Program and those ultimately selected are released through the Chicagoland Grows® Plant Introduction Program.  While breeding of several genera already established at the Garden, such as Amsonia (bluestar), Oenothera (evening primrose), Panicum (panic grass), and Vernonia (ironweed), will continue, several additional genera are being considered for future breeding.

Before joining the garden, I earned my B.S. in Plant Sciences at Cornell University in 2016 and my Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genomics at Rutgers University in 2022 while studying hazelnut (Corylus spp.).  I am excited for the opportunity to transition back to ornamental plants, as they are what originally drew me to plants in general.