Monday, August 16, 2010

Fasciation is Fascinating (not a typo)

Fasciation is when a plant's stem widens out to be abnormally wide instead of round. Here is a small example. The photo on the right is a normal foxglove after blooming. The one on the left is the fasciated top, - the usual place where fasication is found.

The cause of this phenomena is not understood. Reasons for this freak event include: damage to the apical bud [tip]; viruses; herbicides [which surely doesn’t happen in the wild where I have found the most examples]; bacterial infection; cytokinin that appears to have the ability to stimulate the proliferation of a wide spectrum of cell that is found in the xylem. Cytokinin is thought to proliferate cells in the plant; spontaneous mutations; bacterial infection, mite or insect attack; or chemical or mechanical damage. Some plants may inherit the trait.

Among the examples in my collection are: Echium fastuosum [Pride of Madera], an oak stem [it’s rare to find fasciation in hardwoods like oaks], cockscomb celosia [Celosia argentea var. cristata is one of the few plants that passes the mutation on as a true “fixed” fasciation], and evening primrose [Oenothera spp.].

Let me know if you've found a fasciated plant.

Please post a comment - I want to know what you think.

Visit my web site to learn about my new book on drip irrigation and other gardening books.

NOTE: The comments section at the bottom of the post has disappeared. Click on the "___ Comments" button or the title under the "Blog Archives". Thanks, Robert

Posted by Robert Kourik at 7:43 AM 0 comments Labels: Echium, fasciation
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Sharon said...

Jumped to today's post from the post you wrote in 2008 about non-rules or eccentric gardening.

I will be taking you up on the book offer in October....and look forward to knowledge in that area as well as so many others on your blog ;)

I'm planning to take a Master Gardener's course in my area -- as a way to connect with local gardeners and community projects mainly....but am looking forward to being surprised at what else the course might provide.

Acacia Smith said...

I'm glad to have a name to put to this phenomenon. I have seen it many times in my garden, most often in foxglove and evening primrose but also in larkspur, ageratum, celosia and marigold. The most impressive specimen I have seen was an evening primrose nearly a foot across at its widest point.

swtc said...

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Pam/Digging said...

I see fasciation on Texas mountain laurels (Sophora secundiflora) from time to time. It's pretty weird looking.

Anonymous said...

I see fasciation on a few of our pine trees (we are 3000 ft elevation) and in the garden. Zuchinni, cucumber in particular. I never knew what the name was until now. I thought it was caused by a soil virus or bacteria. We have decomposed granite soil and had worse trouble with it in the garden when we were developing our soil. I rarely see it anymore. The ponderosa pines develop these super thick branches with lots of wierd needle growth, like a cock's comb.