Variegated Foliage forum: What exactly is variegation?

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Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Sep 27, 2019 8:39 AM CST
There are basically 5 types of variegation. Chimeral, natural pattern variegation, Transposon variegation, Pathogen infection variegation, and Blister/reflective variegation.

because I am a plant nerd geek I like to be able to classify my variegated plants into their respective categories when I can.

If you are a geek like me here's some info to help you classify yours Rolling on the floor laughing

1. Chimeral variegation
caused by a mutation in the meristem where two or more genotypes in the cell layers cause tissue that can produce chlorophyll and tissue that cannot. The meristem is were cell division and active growth happen. Its is made of the root tips, leaf edges, shoot tips and vascular cambrium
There are 3 types of chimeral variegation
a. Periclinal. The most stable form. AN entire layer of the meristem causes the mutation
b. Mericlinal. Unstable, only happens in one portion of the cell layer. This can be a transition state, the meristem can either go into stable periclinal variegation or lose the mutation altogether and revert back to a solid color plant
c. Sectional. also unstable, only half of each cell layer of the meristem carries the mutation. The meristem can either create an all pigmented leaf able to photosynthesize, or an all non-pigmented leaf incapable of photosynthesis.

Chimeras vary widely in stability across the plant spectrum. Variegation in the unstable forms can revert to all green or all non-pigmented (like in the all white leaves of variegated ALocasias or the all pink leaves of Philodendron Pink Princess.) The only way to keep the variegation going sometimes is to prune off the non-chimeral stems below where they started.
Example, Varigated Monstera, variegated ALocasias, Variegated COlocasias

2. Natural/Pattern variegation is a genetic trait in a cultivar that is inherited, and can be fixed by selecting out plants by vegetative division and propagating them by seed. Different cells in the tissue express different colors. Calathea is a great example of this. The pattern is always the same on every plant in a species

3.Transposons
A transposon is a genetic element that can move around. They are sometimes called jumping genes. They can move randomly on the chromosome and make what are called genetic mosaics. The effect created a splashed color. They differ from Chimeras because the pattern is inherited through the seed.

4. Pathogen Infection
Some viruses can cause color variations in plant tissue. Two are the Mosaic virus and the Color Break virus.These are sometimes introduced into plants while in tissue culture on purpose to produce variegation. But this can be unstable and fade over time. It can be made stable sometimes through vegetative propagation.

5. Reflective variegation (also called Blister variegation)
Thi s is where tiny air pockets present between the pigmented lower cell layer and the non-pigmented upper cell layer. This makes a patch of transparency that reflects light and gives a shiny look, or a silver look. It can cover the entire leaf, or be patchy.

Examples of Chimeras

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Examples of natural/patterned variegation

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Example of Transposon variegation




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Pathogen infection Example.
This anthurium has the color break virus and its variegation is highly unstable


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Blister variegation examples



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Hope I didn;t geek you guys out too much
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[Last edited by Gina1960 - Sep 27, 2019 8:41 AM (+)]
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Georgia (Zone 8a)
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Hamwild
Sep 27, 2019 9:02 AM CST
Apparently I have more variegated plants than I thought. Thinking *Blush*
Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Sep 27, 2019 9:04 AM CST
Everyone does LOL!
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Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Sep 28, 2019 12:17 PM CST
This is an example of what they mean by the meristem determining variegation. There are thin lines of solid white in this variegated Monstera stem, as well as a lot of punctate white dots.
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And this is the resultant leaf:
Thumb of 2019-09-28/Gina1960/10db80

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Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Sep 28, 2019 12:18 PM CST
Please forgive my scabby arm I got into poison ivy the other day digging out some azalea bushes to make a butterfly garden and I am really, REALLY suffering
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Georgia (Zone 8a)
Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Region: Georgia Enjoys or suffers hot summers Dog Lover Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Cactus and Succulents
Houseplants Birds Hummingbirder Butterflies Bee Lover
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Hamwild
Sep 28, 2019 12:24 PM CST
Sad
Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Oct 1, 2019 10:26 AM CST
Looks like my Calathea 'White Dragon' is trying to revert Angry
Thumb of 2019-10-01/Gina1960/7775d1

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Plantsandplanners
Nov 7, 2019 3:47 PM CST
Is color break virus transmittable to other plants? What types of plants are sold using this method?
Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Nov 7, 2019 5:23 PM CST
I have read that some is. But there are a lot of species specific color break viruses. It is usually recommended that if a plant is determined to be viruses that it be removed from the collection. I know that people who get mosaic virus in their aroids(usually ALocasias, colocasias and Xanthosomas) pretty much immediately destroy them to prevent spread
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Name: Bea
(Zone 8b)
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bumplbea
Nov 7, 2019 5:53 PM CST
Gina1960 you can geek out anytime. I admire the "hort-head" in many who share knowledge. Definitely makes horticulture more interesting. Love the explanations of the variations of variegated plants. I think 1/3 of my garden is variegated in some form and some I have had to cut out the sections that grow back that had reverted to the natural state. If they are not cut out is it true that ...The Whole plant can revert back to non variegated ? This type is..The mosaic or color break.

I read somewhere that if growing tomatoes from seed in a close environment like a small greenhouse that tobacco smoke can cause mosaic virus in some plants. Is that something that you can elaborate on?

Sorry poison ivy caught you... hope your better soon. That's so miserable... heave basically eradicated most of it from the garden . But sometimes out on trails gotta watch out for that and stinging nettles. I don't know which is worse...😳
Thank you
I’m so busy... “I don’t know if I found a rope or lost a horse.”
[Last edited by bumplbea - Nov 7, 2019 6:00 PM (+)]
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Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Nov 7, 2019 6:22 PM CST
There is an excellent article in the journal Plant Disease, May 2012, Vol 96 no 5 by Valverde, Sabanadzovic and Hammond that has tons of examples of variegation caused by viruses that were introduced on purpose to make plants patterned and variegated. Most of them are plants that Myself don;t grow. Tulips, Cannas (Bengal Tiger and Pretoria are both examples of variegation caused by virus), some of the ornamental maples, just a ton of different plants.

The Dasheen Mosaic Virus that I referred to above is a virus spread via aphids and it is almost universally present in all commercial aroid producing growing operations. It isn;t one that is encouraged, when nurseries find it they usually destroy the affected plants, because Taro (some forms of Elephant Ears) are a major food crop in some countries.

Yes, I have read that the plants intentionally infected with color break viruses can revert back. Sometimes the effect is transitory. I can;t speak to tomatoes....I haven;t grown them for probably 30 years!

The introduction of tissue culture radically decreased to incidence of viruses plants in some species.
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Name: Bea
(Zone 8b)
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bumplbea
Nov 7, 2019 6:56 PM CST
Gina1960, Thank You! for getting back so fast. Very nice to have you around to answer many questions and share years of hands on knowledge. Really nice examples shown of plants as examples of how each variation occurs. Virus found in many plants have been used to create new modifications or clones for variegated plants. Always makes it interesting.

Small article on how tobacco mosaic virus transferred to tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and many flowers in the Solanaceae family. Many times insects as you mentioned can also infect food crops. Like they have spread the virus on my dahlias. Which makes it difficult to show my dahlias and I used to sell them at the local market. Not all virus' are equal, some can be used to breed variegated plants while others are a death sentence.

https://meadowandthicket.ca/wo...

https://www.missouribotanicalg...

I’m so busy... “I don’t know if I found a rope or lost a horse.”
Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Nov 7, 2019 8:19 PM CST
That is true, some aren;t harmful. I have 2 plants that were the result of virus infection...I don;t remember if it was accidental or on purpose its been so many years ago. One is a form of the Shell ginger (Alpinia) called 'Yu Hua'. If you haven;t seen Shell Ginger, there is an all green form, and a very highly variegated form that is yellow and lime green on darker green. This variegated form is so common in Florida, its used in commercial landscaping like hotels and offices and whatnot and also in residential....I don;t even notice it anymore. There are whole median plantings of nothing but this ginger in Orlando. I guess people who have never seen it before think its great. The Yu Hua is a different from of variegation from the loud one....its like a pin striping. It was caused by a mutation from a virus, and was only marketed for a very short time and never widely distributed. Pretty much only people who collect gingers might have it. I have it in my yard, its been there for over 25 years and never infected anything else.

The other is Plumeria 'Princess Victoria'. This plumie produces color break variegated flowers (sometimes, not all the time). When it was first introduced it was horribly expensive, over $100 a cutting.But eventually it became pretty common in collections and was widely traded, which is how I got mine, but many people who collect and grow plumeria will not grow it because they believe the virus is contagious and harmful. Again, I have had it for at least 15 years and it has never infected any of my other plumeria.
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Name: Bea
(Zone 8b)
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bumplbea
Nov 8, 2019 12:17 AM CST
In many cases some virus mutations can be controlled while others cannot ie:for good plant growth, color, form, odor , hardiness. Many mutations if only from crosses can have an unusual effect and eventually mutate into a new version of a particular plant. Sometimes they become 'spendy' depending on the popularity of the plant or breeder.

Yes of course shell gingers are very lovely, a waxy funnel shape, hold their color and floral substance well once cut for floral displays for a very long time, or even good for submerged under water displays.
Anything lime color is always exciting to have in the garden it lights up any area and draws the eye straight to it. They are ornery in the garden kind of like some black clump bamboo I have a love hate relationship with in my garden for years. Difficult to dig up once established.

I had a mutation in my garden beleive it or not with a wild foxglove lovingly planted yearly by birds from the forest next to us. It had very different flowers and open more like a cup with typical markings on the flower with zero closed throats and odd lime green splotches on the leaves. I saved the seed and hoped it would have a similar mutation for next season. It did for the first year but the second mutated seed collected from the second year never showed any signs of the mutation again, if that makes any sense.I always wondered if it was because foxgloves are biennals and seeds are programmed to behave a certain way in two years. Only grows leaves the first year and flower and leaves the second year and then dies self seeding over and over.
Anyway was very exciting for a couple of years and never had anything like that happen again. Maybe it was a fluke but it will always be a memory when nature caught me totally by surprise! I'll never forget it.

Enjoyed this conversation very much .

My oldest son and his family live near Orlando all the tropicals growing there are especially nice to see when visiting in winters when my garden is asleep, especially in summer everything grows like there on steroids in Florida.


I’m so busy... “I don’t know if I found a rope or lost a horse.”
Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Nov 8, 2019 5:51 AM CST
Tell me about it. I am in the cutting back stage at the moment. Its a big job, the curcuma are all naturally going dormant because its drier and getting a little cooler, and I like to take them down before they look like total dog poo. Already bloomed hedychiums going on the compost too. Trimming and grooming the palms and cycads. Hedges will get the whack in late February early March. But we can't do anything about the wild vines. Just try to keep them off the house.
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Name: ursula
Chile (Zone 9b)
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Mutisia
Nov 8, 2019 12:21 PM CST
WOW. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge about variegation with all of us @Gina1960 and @bumplebea. May I suggest you resume all this in one of NGAs great articles - @jon.

I was about to ask the same question when I found this thread.
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

moorcasi
Jan 22, 2020 1:48 PM CST

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Hi Gina,

Would you happen to know what kind of variegation this is on my golden pothos?
Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
Image
Gina1960
Jan 22, 2020 3:40 PM CST
All of the Epipremnums (your plant is not a pothos) are chimeric.
Sorry I hit the button by accident so I am editing.
Epipremnum aureum has a plain green form. This is it. Of course this is a mature one, Yours in a juvenile one.
Thumb of 2020-01-22/Gina1960/eb5fd1

What made yours variegated and not green was a chance mutation aeons ago that injected yellow into the green. It was separated and propagated vegetatively (because these plants almost never 'bloom' they are not 'hybridized' like many other plants). That form was then a cultivar. Sometime at some point, someone found other spontaneous mutations in the 2 basic forms. Green/yellow/white. Green and white. Green and white in different patterns.(Marble Queen, NJoy etc) Lime/chartreuse green ('Neon') Jade Satin (the one with the sheen) and so on and so on. These were spotted by some astute person, propagated vegetatively, and if the new pattern/colors were found to be stable, named, and marketed as new cultivars.

Here of course the most common variegated form. Again, a mature specimen.
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[Last edited by Gina1960 - Jan 22, 2020 3:59 PM (+)]
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Plantnewbie101
Mar 14, 2020 10:04 PM CST
Hey Gina
Could you possibly help shed some like that on my tetrapsema? The health of the plant doesn't seem at risk or anything. The variegation regrew 2 more shoots after cutting it back. Today 1 shoot was separated. It has settle vargation on the upper leaf and under side has strong strikes. Still non on the stem, however I suspect it to occur over time. I think it's healthy and stable and hopefully continues to become more dominant. Also I've noticed that the new growth with comes out yellow but turns white as the leaf matures. It's been really fun observing and I'd like to share it with people asap! I'm just a nebiew though I'm all ears!
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Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
Image
Gina1960
Mar 15, 2020 5:58 AM CST
I can see the speckling and striping on your stem...I think it will turn out nice
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