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Plant Morphing – Why Flowers Change Color and More

Our gardens are filled with surprises; a yellow flowering perennial that suddenly produces purple blooms, a variegated branch that suddenly appears on a green leafed shrub or different shaped squash growing in your compost pile. The science behind these transformations has allowed plant breeders to propagate and develop many of the flowers, fruit, and vegetables we grow in our landscapes today.

Man-made or nature’s hybrids occur when two plants with distinct characteristics share some of these features through cross pollination. Saving and planting the seed from a hybrid’s offspring usually results in plants that look much different than their parent.

Mutations occur when there is a change in the genetic makeup of the plant.  This can happen naturally or be induced by breeders.

Viruses can also impact a plant’s appearance. Tulip break virus causes streaking in the flower petals that led to Tulip mania.

A bit more information: Tulip mania (Tulipomania) was at its peak in the 1630s. Investors spent as much as ten times a skilled craftman’s annual wage for one bulb. Those with streaked petals caused increased activity in the bulb trading market.

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