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James R. Ault, Ph.D.

James R. Ault
Director of Ornamental Plant Research
(847) 835-8244
Curriculum Vitae: 
Teaching and Research Affiliations: 

Northwestern University, Program in Biology

Selected Professional Associations: 
Research Interests: 
  • Ornamental plant development through traditional plant breeding
  • Tissue culture propagation
  • Conventional plant propagation
  • Ornamental plant evaluation and introduction
  • Plant exploration for germplasm acquisition

My main research is the development through conventional plant breeding practices of herbaceous perennial plants for garden cultivation in climates similar to the midwestern United States. Currently most of the priority genera in the breeding program are taxa indigenous to North America. We have a wealth of naturally occurring plant taxa that are still largely unexplored as subjects for garden cultivation. I peruse the ecological and systematic literature for genera that produce interspecific hybrids in situ and attempt to reproduce these hybrids under controlled conditions. Advanced generation breeding and selection can produce unique genotypes with novel ornamental attributes of flower color and fragrance, plant habit, better cold and heat tolerance, and improved adaptability to the stressors encountered in urban landscapes such as compacted and alkaline soils. The major taxa under current study include asters (Symphyotrichum), false indigos (Baptisia), phlox (Phlox), and speedwells (Veronica). Individual plants are selected, clonally propagated for evaluation, and if field evaluations prove successful, introduced through the Chicagoland Grows® Plant Introduction Program.

I am also interested in plant tissue culture techniques such as clonal propagation of individual genotypes and embryo/ovule culture of wide-hybrid crosses. Conventional plant propagation studies (rooting cuttings and seed germination) also support the breeding program.

Selected Publications: 

Ault, J. 2013. ″The best of the best native plants: Midwest." Fine Gardening. December 2013. Pgs. 30-31.

Ault, J. 2013. Phlox ‘Forever Pink’. Digger. August 2013. Pg. 110.

Ault, J  2012. Acer saccharum ‘Morton’ in New Plants for 2013. American Nurseryman. December 2012. Pg. 7.

Ault, J. 2012. Acer saccharum ‘Morton’ and Syringa pekinensis ‘Zhang Zhiming’ in Woody Plants for 2013. American Nurseryman. December 2012. Pg. W9.

Ault, J. 2012. Phlox ‘Forever Pink’ in Perennials for 2013. American Nurseryman. December 2012. Pg. 4.

Ault, J. 2012. Polygonatum ‘Prince Charming’ (pg. 48) and Veronica ‘Tidal Pool’ (pg. 53) in New Plant Pavilion 2012. Nursery Management. July 2012.

Ault, J. 2012. Lilium pumilum, the Coral Lily. The North American Lily Society Quarterly Bulletin. 66(2):23-32.

Ault, J. 2012. Lilium amabile, the Korean Lily. The North American Lily Society Quarterly Bulletin. 66(1):18-27.

Ault, J. 2011. Echinacea ‘Burgundy Starburst’. American Nurseryman New Plants for 2012. December 2011. Pg. 14.

Ault, J. 2011. Veronica ‘Tidal Pool’. American Nurseryman New Plants for 2012. December 2011. Pg. 29-30.

Ault, J. 2010. Itea virginica ‘Morton’. American Nurseryman New Plants for 2011. Issue 11, Vol. 10, 23-24, and online at

Ault, 2010. Veronica ‘Whitewater’. American Nurseryman New Plants for 2011. Online edition. 

Ault, J. 2009. "Baptisia australis and other false indigos." Perennial Plants. Fall:7-20.

Ault, J.R. and S.S. Siqueira. 2008. Morphogenetic response of Lilium michiganense to four auxin-type plant growth regulators in vitro. HortScience. 43(6):1922–1924.

Ault, J. 2008. "Lilies for Chicagoland." Chicagoland Gardening. July - August:18.

Jefferson, L.V., Pennacchio, M., Havens, K., Forsberg, B., Sollenberger, S., and Ault, J. 2008. "Ex situ germination responses of midwestern USA prairie species to plant-derived smoke." American Midland Naturalist Journal. 159(1):251-256.

Ault, J. 2006. "Perennial research at the Chicago Botanic Garden — an update." Perennial Plants. (2)6-11.

Ault, J. 2006. "Coneflower, Echinacea species." In N.O. Anderson (ed.) Flower Breeding & Genetics: Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities for the 21st Century 799-822. Springer, Netherlands.

Jefferson, L., K. Havens, and J. Ault. 2005. ″Implementing invasive screening procedures: the Chicago Botanic Garden Model.″ Weed Technology. 18:1434-1440.

Ault, J. 2005. "A new dawn for baptisias." NMPRro 21(4):37-44.

Ault, J. 2004. Explant initiation date and BA concentration influence shoot proliferation in vitro of two Liatris interspecific hybrids. HortScience. 39(5):1098-1100.

Ault, J. 2004. "The Chicagoland Grows plant introduction program — a model for success." Acta Horticulturae. 630:113-118.

Ault, J. 2004. "What’s new in the world of coneflowers (Echinacea)." Combined Proceedings International Plant Propagators Society. 54:402-406.

Ault, J. 2004. "Breeding new perennials for midwestern gardens." Perennial Plant Association 2002 Proceedings. 11-14.

Ault, J. 2003. "Breeding and development of new ornamental plants from North American native taxa." Acta Horticulturae. 624:37-42.

Ault J.R. 2002. Micropropagation of the rare Lakeside daisy (Hymenoxys acaulis var. glabra). HortScience. 37(1):200-201.

Ault, J. 2002. "Echinacea evolution." NMPro. 18(11):34-36.

Ault, J. and R. Hawke. 2001. "The top performing plants from the evaluation and breeding programs at Chicago Botanic Garden." Combined Proceedings International Plant Propagation Society. 51:401-407.

Ault, J. 2001. "Penstemon grandiflorus, the pride of the plains." Bulletin of the American Penstemon Society. 60(1):8-14.

Ault, J. (Editor). 2000. "Plant exploration: protocols for the present, concerns for the future." Symposium proceedings. Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL. 87.

Ault, J. 2000. "Ornamental plant development at Chicago Botanic Garden." Landscape Plant News. 11(2):2-7.

Ault, J. and R. Hawke. 2000. "Breeding and evaluation of perennials at Chicago Botanic Garden." Combined Proceedings International Plant Propagators Society. 50:337-340.

Ault, J. and K. Havens. 1999. Micropropagation of Baptisia 'Purple Smoke'. HortScience. 34(2):353-354.

Ault, J.R. 1996. In vitro rooting and greenhouse acclimatization of Veltheimia bracteata and V. capensis shoots. HortScience. 31(7):1229-1230.

Ault, J.R. 1995. In vitro propagation of Eucomis autumnalis, Eucomis comosa, and Eucomis zambesiaca by twin scaling. HortScience. 30(7):1441-1442.

Ault, J.R. 1995. In vitro rooting and greenhouse acclimatization of Lachenalia shoots. HortScience. 30(6):1304-1305.

Ault, J.R. 1994. In vitro propagation of Eriostemon myoporoides and Eriostemon 'Stardust'. HortScience. 29(6):686-688.

Ault, J.R. 1994. "Mediterranean plants under glass at Longwood Gardens." Combined Proceedings International Plant Propagators Society 44:104-107.

Ault, J.R. 1992. "In vitro propagation of a Silene hybrid (S. polypetala x S. virginica)." HortScience 27(11):1226.

Wetzstein, H.Y., Ault, J.R. and Merkle, S.A. 1990. "Factors influencing somatic embryogenesis and plantlet regeneration in pecan (Carya illinoensis)." Acta Horticulturae. 280:69-74.

Wetzstein, H.Y., J.R. Ault, and S.A. Merkle. 1989. "Further characterization of somatic embryogenesis in pecan (Carya illinoensis)." Plant Science. 64:193-201.

Wetzstein, H.Y., S.A. Merkle, J.R. Ault, and H.E. Sommer. 1988. "Somatic embryogenesis in pecan (Carya illinoensis)." SAAS Bulletin Biochemistry and Biotechnology. 1:64-68.

Ault, J.R. and W.J. Blackmon. 1987. "In vitro propagation of Ferocactus acanthodes (Cactaceae)." HortScience 22(1):126-127.