Ask a Question forum: aging of plants?

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Name: Bob
Clayton, NC (Zone 7b)
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DigginDirt
Jul 7, 2016 9:06 AM CST
I have often wondered about plants produced from division & especially from cuttings versus seeds. I realize division & cuttings are clones so are exactly like the mother plant, while there is always genetic variations with a seed.
But my question has to do with the aging of plants. Like animals I understand plants have a life expectancy. Presuming we have a plant that lives let's say an expected 10 years, and we take a cutting and start a baby plant at say 4 years, would we expect the baby's life expectancy as 10 years, 6 years, or something in between?

I have read that there are single-celled colonies (bacterium? alga?) that scientists believe to be millions of years old but I presume this is millions of generations rather than the original cell still being alive and still dividing. If not then I guess I fail to understand the concept that everything eventually dies.
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Rainbow
Jul 7, 2016 9:23 AM CST
Your question reminded me of the quaking aspen.

"For example, the Pando, or "trembling giant," is a clonal colony of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) estimated to be an astounding 80,000 years old. It is located in Fishlake National Forest in south-central Utah."
From http://www.livescience.com/29152-oldest-tree-in-world.html
Name: Celia
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Zencat
Jul 7, 2016 9:45 AM CST
A very good question to which I would also like an answer. My understanding and experience has been that when you take a cutting and get roots to grow, you've essentially hit a reset button. The original plant will die in it's turn but the cutting will continue living until it's time for it to go. Take a cutting from the cutting? Another reset. I could be way off base here and probably am but that's what I think happens.
Name: Bob
Clayton, NC (Zone 7b)
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DigginDirt
Jul 7, 2016 9:50 AM CST
That's amazing! I, like many, thought the Bristlecone in California was the oldest. The Sequoias in Yosemite have always struck awe in me as I stood before them... But then even the weeds in my yard have my admiration, sinking their little claws into the dirt and fighting tooth & nail to stay there; they might not be mighty oaks but they are no less tenacious!

My question of course does not change my gardening, it's just something that has bounced around in my little brain for a long time.
Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
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Horntoad
Jul 7, 2016 9:58 AM CST
Zencat said:A very good question to which I would also like an answer. My understanding and experience has been that when you take a cutting and get roots to grow, you've essentially hit a reset button. The original plant will die in it's turn but the cutting will continue living until it's time for it to go. Take a cutting from the cutting? Another reset. I could be way off base here and probably am but that's what I think happens.

I agree Even though the plant may be near the end of it's life expectancy, the cutting is generally taken from very young parts of the plant. Also the roots system which support the plant are brand new.
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Name: Bob
Clayton, NC (Zone 7b)
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DigginDirt
Jul 7, 2016 10:02 AM CST
That has been my thought too, Celia. I have presumed divisions worked that way.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
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drdawg
Jul 7, 2016 10:04 AM CST
Interesting question and answer, guys. I don't have a clue. I don't even know what the "normal" life span of a plumeria tree is. My oldest trees are only a mere 25 years old. Do the months of dormancy prolong their life-span?

Perhaps someone from Hawaii or even S. FL or CA can tell us the answer to this question.
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Name: Kent Pfeiffer
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KentPfeiffer
Jul 7, 2016 1:01 PM CST

Plants Admin

Perennial plants that are capable of asexual reproduction are, in a certain sense, immortal. They can obviously be killed by any number of things, disease, herbivores, competition from other plants, weather, etc. But, barring all of that, they could theoretically live forever.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Jul 7, 2016 3:06 PM CST
When taking cuttings, it's possible to preserve the ontological age (phase of maturity) of some plants in regard to specific individual cuttings. Meaning one could propagate the sexually mature part of some plants and produce a sexually mature plant almost immediately.

I've seen this with Portulaca, in general. If I take various cuttings from a same mama plant and put them adjacent to each other in the same piece of ground, those already blooming keep blooming and usually initial growth of secondary branches is a bit more slow. Those stems not already blooming pop out more secondary growth before they get around to blooming, generally.

Also seen regarding arrowhead vine (Syngonium podophyllum.) One can grow a juvenile-stage specimen for decades in a pot and it might never reach its' mature, split-leaf stage. But interestingly, a cutting of a stem with mature form foliage can be propagated and maintain the mature state.

And just thought of Zinnias. Cuttings of blooming Zinnia stems keep blooming while they take root.

All of these examples are general, conditions permitting and probably varying degrees of serendipity.

Is this not one reason people seek Plumeria cuttings instead of seeds? To assuage the impatience of waiting much longer for a seed to mature into a blooming plant?

I couldn't find any links to add to this discussion that weren't super-technical and jargon-ated. I wish this was something more common in propagation discussions. I'd like to know much more about it!

But I did find this link that's so interesting but confusing as heck. Does anybody understand this and want to provide a nutshell explanation of what these folks are doing? Is this site useful to anyone in the realm of what gardeners/plant hobbyists do besides using the glossary of plant anatomy terms?
http://www.plantontology.org/
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[Last edited by purpleinopp - Jul 7, 2016 3:09 PM (+)]
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Name: Ken Ramsey
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drdawg
Jul 7, 2016 3:51 PM CST
Tiffany, there might be even more important reasons to purchase cuttings rather than plants, well several reasons really.

Seeds won't always germinate. Sometimes its the age of the seeds but it can be because the plant that produced the seed-pods was young and for some reason, those seeds don't seem to germinate. Thus, you might wait around for 4-8 wks., waiting for germination, and nothing happens. If it is the right time of the year, rooting cuttings is more predictable. If you do grow from seed, the rule of thumb as I understand it is that it will take an average of three years to bloom. Cuttings, being mature, can bloom even while they are rooting. The third reason is that seeds don't bloom true to their seed-pod parent. You absolutely will never know what the flower form, size, color, or fragrance will be. With rooted cuttings, the flowers will always be true to that "mother" plant.
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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
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RickCorey
Jul 7, 2016 7:07 PM CST
DigginDirt said: ...
I have read that there are single-celled colonies (bacterium? alga?) that scientists believe to be millions of years old but I presume this is millions of generations rather than the original cell still being alive and still dividing. If not then I guess I fail to understand the concept that everything eventually dies.


I think that "everything dies" is only true of multi-cellular critters.

The biologists who say that "bacteria are immortal", or any single-celled creatures are immortal are thinking this way:

"When a cell divides, it has not died.
There are two of it now.
Both are "the same individual", except that there are two of them."


Heinlein pointed out the futility of trying to apply the word "individual" to things that reproduce by division. ("Puppet Masters")

I think it would be more accurate to say that very few single-celled creatures die of old age. In fact, I'm not aware of anyone referring to the [b]"age" of a bacterium[/u], unless they mean "how many hours have passed since its last cell division", or "how many years have passed since it differentiated enough to be called a different species".

Hence its "age" might be equally well called either "16 hours" or "16 million years". Not a very useful word in that context!

Both "age" and "mortal" are words that apply to multi-cellular creatures.

I think the burden is on whoever re-uses the words to apply to something different, to clearly RE-DEFINE the words in a meaningful way. Instead, writers throw them around recklessly and then pat themselves on the back for discovering a "paradox". Feh!

In my mind, the paradox is calling someone a writer who deliberately uses words in ambiguous and misleading ways.
If they make their living from words, they owe a little respect to the language and clear communication.

DigginDirt, I'm not referring to you when I criticize professional writers for writing whatever sells instead of respecting the language, meaningfulness and accuracy. But glitzy-sounding phrases replicate themselves online like invasive weeds, while the few flowers of Internet accuracy have to fight their ways through a forest of weedy glitz, zazz and puffery.

Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Jul 7, 2016 9:18 PM CST
Confused But loving it. Dolly the sheep, although brand new was born old. I can't wait to see where this goes.

Thank You! Bob for making us think! Smiling
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Jul 8, 2016 7:41 AM CST
TY, Ken. Under the topic of the discussion, I was mentioning one reason (ontological age) why one might want Plumeria cuttings vs. seeds. Of course there would be other reasons in a separate discussion about the specific topic of the virtues of Plumeria cuttings vs. seeds.
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[Last edited by purpleinopp - Jul 8, 2016 8:16 AM (+)]
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Name: Ken Ramsey
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drdawg
Jul 8, 2016 8:00 AM CST
Personally, now that I am growing some from seed, I think that is fun and exciting. I cannot express to you the thrill of seeing my first blooms, blooms that have never been seen on the face of the earth before. Some flowers have been spectacular (to me, at least) and some have just been OK. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But they are my babies and I love them all. An added thrill is being able to put a name on those seedlings. Most of my seedlings will be named "MM's" or 'DD's" something or the other, depending on the source of the seeds.

I guess it doesn't take much to excite me, huh? Whistling

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Thumb of 2016-07-08/drdawg/69c89c Thumb of 2016-07-08/drdawg/76d36d OK

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Name: Bob
Clayton, NC (Zone 7b)
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DigginDirt
Jul 9, 2016 12:28 PM CST
From all I read here and what little I understand about plants at the cellular level, it sounds like since even cuttings "begin" with growth-tip cells - the newest cells a plant produces. If that's the case I guess everything is still considered new whether from seed, cutting or division?

The question was only academic; I realize we grow from cutting or divide to make exact replicas, and seeds with the hopes (or fears?) of a genetic difference. Sometimes silly things like that question get stuck in my head and since my wife says there's nothing up there they bounce around for a long time.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
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drdawg
Jul 9, 2016 12:34 PM CST
Rolling on the floor laughing Whistling
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Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Jul 9, 2016 11:37 PM CST
Bob,

I think you have a point. (No, Not the part about your rattling head) Growth tips! Dolly didn't have growth tips.
Name: Bob
Clayton, NC (Zone 7b)
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DigginDirt
Jul 10, 2016 8:49 PM CST
Thank you, Daisy.
I suppose cloning is a different topic but it lends itself nicely. I can't say I've put a lot of thought into cloning with plants (animals is another story, and human parts is personally something I have issues with). I know that's what we are doing when we take cutting, but then that's what nature does with runners and self-pollinating flowers that never open.
No Dolly certainly did not have growth tips; and it's interesting that science sweeps the fact that there were dozens of failures before they got Dolly under the rug. A funny/sad story about cloning is the Pyrenees Mountain goat (Ibex Pyrenees) - it went extinct, later it was cloned, but the baby died a few hours after birth. It holds the record for being the first animal to become extinct twice. Sometimes you just gotta love science!
[Last edited by DigginDirt - Jul 10, 2016 8:49 PM (+)]
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