Archive

Mutation

A spectacular aurora photographed by Ryan Fisher in Canada's Northwest Territories on January 11, 2015. Click image to link to the aurora gallery at Spaceweather.

A spectacular aurora photographed by Ryan Fisher in Canada’s Northwest Territories on January 11, 2015. Click image to link to the aurora gallery at Spaceweather.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

House sparrows bathing. Photo Zachary, Creative Commons.

House sparrows bathing. Photo Zachary, Creative Commons.

Cat Grass for Cats – good or bad?
Though no one can deny that cats eat grass, there are only theories as to why they do. Some claim it is to get extra niacin, a B vitamin abundantly available in most fresh young grain grasses. Perhaps cats eat it to make themselves vomit. Some people believe cats eat it to help pass fur balls along while others say they just need the fiber for other nutritional purposes.
Geoff Stein/Dave’s Garden

Rise in mass die-offs seen among birds, fish and marine invertebrates
An analysis of 727 studies reveals that there have been more instances of rapid, catastrophic animal die-offs over the past 75 years. These mass kills appear to have hit birds, fish and marine invertebrates harder than other species.
Science Daily

Unusual number of UK flowers bloom
Botanists have been stunned by the results of their annual hunt for plants in flower on New Year’s Day. They say according to textbooks there should be between 20 and 30 species in flower. This year there were 368 in bloom.
BBC

Together, humans and computers can figure out the plant world
As technology advances, science has become increasingly about data–how to gather it, organize it, and analyze it. The creation of key databases to analyze and share data lies at the heart of bioinformatics, or the collection, classification, storage, and analysis of biochemical and biological information using computers and software.
EurekAlert

The Sustainable Sites Initiative
Landscapes are considered sustainable if they reduce water demand, filter and reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, improve human health, and increase outdoor recreation opportunities.
United States Botanic Garden

Nectar of the Gods
The Exotic Love Vine (Ipomoea lobata) is proving to be the most vibrant and heavy bloomer in my fall garden — just when I think it can’t possibly get any better, it does.
Great Stems

William Curtis and “The Botanical Magazine, or, Flower-Garden Displayed”
The world’s longest running botanical magazine was (eventually) named after its founder William Curtis (1746–1799), who was an English botanist and entomologist. From 1771 to 1777 Curtis worked as demonstrator of plants and Praefectus Horti at the Chelsea Physic Garden…
New York Public Library

A Garden Aristocrat
The U.S. National Arboretum’s National Boxwood Collection is one of the most complete collections of boxwood in the world.  There are around 150 different species and cultivars planted in this verdant corner of the Arboretum.  Some have blue-green leaves, others have leaves variegated with splashes of cream or yellow.  Some are dwarf and mature at a height of less than two feet.  One variety, ‘Graham Blandy’,  grows upward in a narrow column like an exclamation point in the garden.
United States National Arboretum

Search the Botany Collections
The plant collections of the Smithsonian Institution began with the acquisition of specimens collected by the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842). These formed the foundation of a National Herbarium which today numbers over 5 million historical plant records, placing it among the world’s largest and most important.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

20 gorgeous peonies
Our guide to favorite varieties in pinks, reds, yellows, and more.
Sunset

Designing with Dwarf Conifers
My tiny lot did not afford much space for full-size trees and shrubs, but I knew I could make room for a few dwarf conifers, which usually don’t get taller than 1 to 6 feet in 10 years.
Fine Gardening

Horticultural Artists Grow Fantastical Scenes at the Montréal Botanical Garden
The process works a bit like this. To start, horticultural artists build metal frames for their sculptures. They cover the frames with soil netting and then plant seeds of different flora in that soil, much like a ceramicist lays tiles in a mosaic.
Smithsonian Magazine

Sex and the single evening primrose
Sex or no sex? Using various species of the evening primrose as their model, researchers have demonstrated strong support for a theory that biologists have long promoted: Species that reproduce sexually, rather than asexually, are healthier over time, because they don’t accumulate harmful mutations.
Science Daily

Detail of the roof of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California. Photo Almonroth, Creative Commons.

Detail of the roof of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California. Photo Almonroth, Creative Commons.

Green fingers are the extension of a verdant heart. ~Russell Page

Limonaia in Tower Hill Botanical Garden, Boylston, Massachusetts. "Preservation of citrus and other tender plants started out as crudely as building a pergola over potted plants or beds or simply moving potted plants indoors for the cold season. Known in Italy as limonaia, these early structures employed wood panels in storerooms or open galleries to protect from the cold," says Wikipedia. Photo Muffet, Creative Commons.

Limonaia in Tower Hill Botanical Garden, Boylston, Massachusetts. “Preservation of citrus and other tender plants started out as crudely as building a pergola over potted plants or beds or simply moving potted plants indoors for the cold season. Known in Italy as limonaia, these early structures employed wood panels in storerooms or open galleries to protect from the cold,” says Wikipedia. Photo Muffet, Creative Commons.

 

Phyllody in clover flower on right, normal flower left. Photo unknown, please advise.

Phyllody in clover flower on right, normal flower left. Photo unknown, please advise.

Certain flaws are necessary for the whole. It would seem strange if old friends lacked certain quirks.” — Goethe

Imagine you caught a virus that caused fingers to grow from your genitals. That, in the broadest sense, is phyllody

“Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, the German poet best known for his work Faust, was also an astute botanical observer. In 1790, he described the strange appearance of rose flowers in which flower organs were replaced by leaf- and stem-like structures. …In 1869, Maxwell T. Masters named the condition “phyllody” (fil-o-dee) in his book devoted to plant abnormalities.”Phyllody in Roses, Sim, Rowhani and Golino; UC Davis, pdf

Leaf-like structures growing where parts of flowers should be? What’s the cause?

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) showing phyllody due to aster yellows infection. Normal, non-infected coneflowers can be seen in the background. Taken in Chaska, Minnesota. Photo Estreya, Creative Commons

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) showing phyllody due to aster yellows infection. Normal, non-infected coneflowers can be seen in the background. Taken in Chaska, Minnesota. Photo Estreya, Creative Commons

Phyllody is a result of hormonal imbalance, commonly caused by environmental conditions such as heat stress and drought, and by severe insect damage.

Heat and drought being in plentiful supply these last three years in Kansas–already a paradise for enraged insects–it was only mildly surprising to discover a phyllodic mutation on an Echinacea purpurea plant in last year’s garden. As phyllody is an untreatable disease transmitted by phloem-munching bugs, leafhoppers in particular, the only remedy was to pull the affected plant and dispose of it in the covered garbage bin–not on the insect-accessible compost heap. Better yet, burn it.

The pathogens that cause phyllodic mutations are called phytoplasmas, parasitic bacteria that feed on the vascular tissue of plants. Remembering our grade school biology lessons, the phloem is the vascular tissue that conducts sugars and other metabolic products downward from the leaves. Phytoplasmas live and replicate in the phloem. The sugars in the phloem attract sap-sucking insects, the phytoplasmas hitch a ride. Insecticides are often used to control insect vectors but they also kill off many beneficial insects and pollinators. The most common treatment is the destruction of affected plants, which often carries significant economic consequences. 

Phyllody is a symptom of several systemic plant diseases affecting agricultural and horticultural plants, such as aster yellows and rose rosette disease.

Phyllody in strawberry. Photo Don Ferrin. Click image for more info from the LSU AgCenter in Baton Rouge.

Phyllody in strawberry. Photo Don Ferrin. Click image for more info from the LSU AgCenter in Baton Rouge.

“Aster yellows is a disease you see almost everywhere. It causes conspicuous symptoms and affects many different kinds of plants. It occurs on buckwheat, red clover, tomato, carrot, lettuce, onion, parsnip, salsify, and spinach; on such common weeds as daisy fleabane, dandelion, horseweed, plantain, ragweed, and wild lettuce in grasslands, forests, and waste places; and on such popular flowers as calendula, Centaurea, China aster, chrysanthemum, Clarkia, cockscomb, coreopsis, cosmos, gaillardia, marigold, nemesia, petunia, phlox, Scabiosa, snapdragon, Statice, straw-flower, and Veronica in gardens even penthouse gardens throughout the country.” – L. O. Kunkel, Plant Diseases.

In rare instances, phyllodic mutation is desirable: the Green Rose, Rosa chinensis var. viridiflora, “…an ancient Chinese rose cultivar which exhibits green leafy bracts in tight flower-like clusters. In green rose, artificial selection has enabled phyllody to be expressed as a stable mutation.” – Wikipedia

The Green Rose, Rosa chinensis var. viridiflora, a stable phyllodic mutation.

The Green Rose, Rosa chinensis var. viridiflora, a stable phyllodic mutation.