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Variegated Plant [genetics]

Beverly Erlebacher bae at cs.toronto.edu
Thu Jul 30 13:43:47 EST 1998

>Scott Coutts wrote in
<6pgqmc$vlq$2 at towncrier.cc.monash.edu.au>...
>Does anyone know any of the genetics involved with plant variegation? I
>think I could guess how some plants produced variegated patterns on the
>leaves/stems, when they are a regular, standard pattern on all leaves.
>However, I have a plant growing at home (I dont remember the name of it)
>which has a completely random pattern of variegation on every single leaf
>- they're all unique.
>Any ideas/pointers to info on this subject?

Some plants are variegated because they harbor a virus, which may or
may not be detrimental to them.  The variegated forms of Abutilon
frequently seen are an example of variegation caused by a relatively
harmless virus.

Variegation is often due to a somatic mutation, and the plant becomes
a chimera with a mixture of cells from the mutated and original lines.
These plants often have to be pruned to prevent solid green parts out
growing variegated parts.  This type of variegation is not usually
passed by seed, so the plants have to be propagated vegetatively.

There are some cases of variegated plants that produce some or all
variegated seedlings, but which don't have a regular pattern, such
as white-edged leaves, as you say.  I have some variegated borage
seedlings (Borago officinalis) that are quite irregular.  The seeds
were collected from a variegated plant, and produced 2 variegated
and one solid green seedling.  I don't know the mechanism here, whether
it's something genetic, or the plants produce chimeric embryos.

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