TSUKUBA, Ibaraki Prefecture--It literally came out of the blue when Japanese researchers developed the world's first chrysanthemum of that color.

Naonobu Noda attributed his team's success in creating the blue bloom after 16 years of trying to “unforeseeable luck.”

The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) recently gave media representatives a sneak peek of the blue chrysanthemums that could reach local florists a decade from now.

NARO started working on its goal in 2001 by using gene recombination technology. In 2004, a research institute attached to the Suntory Group joined the effort.

Noda, a 45-year-old senior principal researcher with NARO, noted that chrysanthemums are never naturally blue perhaps because they carry no genes for producing blue pigments called delphinidin-based anthocyanin.

Noda's team tried out genes from dozens of blue flower species, but in vain.

When they introduced a gene from the Canterbury bell, which belongs to the bellflower family, delphinidin-based pigments were generated in chrysanthemums, but the flowers ended up purple.

In 2014, Noda and his colleagues introduced a gene from the butterfly pea to add sugar to pigments in tandem with the gene from the Canterbury bell.

They were not really holding their breath because sugar generally makes flowers redder.

But bingo! The resulting chrysanthemum flowers were most definitely blue.

Studies showed that a separate ingredient, inherent in the chrysanthemums, had interacted with delphinidin-based pigments with added sugar to produce the blue color.

Noda says similar methods could be applied to other flower species to produce blue variants.

Chrysanthemums account for 40 percent of all cut flower shipments in Japan. The blue chrysanthemums are transgenic, so measures must be taken to ensure they do not crossbreed with wild chrysanthemums and produce seeds.