Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

It was fasciation, I know*

with 19 comments

Liatris mucronata Fasciated 1226

If the seed head of eastern gamagrass shown in a recent post was deformed, so was the stalk of the Liatris mucronata plant shown here, which I found growing on the prairie in far north Austin on August 2. In contrast to the eastern gamagrass, this plant was suffering from what botanists call fasciation, a word based, with some imagination, on the Latin fascia that meant ‘a strip of material, ribbon, band, bandage, swathe.’ As Dr. T. Ombrello wrote: “One interesting type of mistake that is occasionally found in plants is known as a fasciated or crested growth form. It is usually the result of a growing point changing from a round dome of cells into a crescent shape. Subsequent growth produces a flat stem. In some cases fasciation is the result of several embryonic growing points fusing together, with the same flat-stem appearance.”

The deformed flower stalk of eastern gamagrass shown in the recent post was one of a kind: the other nearby plants of that species were normal. In contrast, the Liatris mucronata in today’s photograph was one of several fasciated plants of that species growing in close proximity.

Update: see the following post to compare a few normal spikes from this species.

————

* The title of today’s post is an allusion to the classic song that begins with the line “It was fascination, I know.”

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 24, 2011 at 5:56 AM

19 Responses

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  1. This is fascinating! Truly. I’m sure we all have seen this anomaly before but we didn’t understand it, much less know the cause. Thanks for sharing. I love this stuff! ~ Lynda

    (Incidental pun was not intended but necessarily unavoidable. 😉 )

    pixilated2

    August 24, 2011 at 6:44 AM

  2. […] a post in my nature photography blog today I showed a photograph of a plant afflicted by the condition that botanists call […]

  3. Another informative post – thanks. Any ideas why this plant had so many fasciated neighbors?

    Dawn

    August 24, 2011 at 7:24 AM

    • I’m happy to be in good form, which is to say informative. According to a Wikipedia article on fasciation, “some plants may inherit the trait.” If so, then the affected plants I found on the prairie might all have sprung from seeds from an affected plant that was there previously. From the little reading I’ve done on the subject, it seems that botanists don’t understand the phenomenon well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 24, 2011 at 7:37 AM

  4. what the hell is that??:P
    i like it anyway..
    http://rodposse.com/

    pause

    August 24, 2011 at 8:15 AM

    • Liatris mucronata goes by the common names blazing-star and gayfeather. Both are allusions to the plant’s attractive spikes of purple flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 24, 2011 at 8:20 AM

  5. I’ve wondered if environmental factors cause the original genetic mutations.

    missusk76

    August 24, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    • That seems plausible as at least one cause. A way to test that would be to see if people observed fasciation before the modern era of chemicals. If so, then there would at least have to be other factors that can cause it as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 24, 2011 at 1:52 PM

  6. And I’m sure you remember that while she had 9 buttons on her nightgown, she could only fasciate.

    John Mac Carpenter

    August 24, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    • I have to admit that “She had nine buttons on her nightgown but she could only fasten eight” was new to me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 24, 2011 at 2:15 PM

  7. i so enjoy your postings. i’ve seen this malformation several times in Mexican Hats and in fact had a specimen on my gallery wall for years. also loved the shell with violet background. breathtaking.

    susie fowler

    August 24, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    • Great, Susie, I’m happy to have these postings be the source of your enjoyment. I can’t remember if I’ve seen fasciation in Mexican hats, but I have seen it in other species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 24, 2011 at 2:22 PM

  8. […] yesterday’s post about the fasciated stalk of a Liatris mucronata plant, John Mac Carpenter asked whether flowers are ever subject to that deformity too. I said that they […]

  9. […] that had beset it and that botanists call fasciation. (You can read more about the phenomenon in a post from last year, where the afflicted plant was a Liatris mucronata. You can also see an afflicted firewheel, the […]

  10. […] (Those of you who are interested in the strange plant phenomenon called fasciation may want to take a look at a picture from last year showing a fasciated Liatris mucronata plant.) […]

  11. […] A post from August 2011 explained “what botanists call fasciation, a word based, with some imagination, on the Latin fascia that meant ‘a strip of material, ribbon, band, bandage, swathe.’ As Dr. T. Ombrello wrote: ‘One interesting type of mistake that is occasionally found in plants is known as a fasciated or crested growth form. It is usually the result of a growing point changing from a round dome of cells into a crescent shape. Subsequent growth produces a flat stem. In some cases fasciation is the result of several embryonic growing points fusing together, with the same flat-stem appearance.’” […]

  12. […] is new to you or you’d like a refresher, you can find a discussion of the phenomenon in a post about a fasciated Liatris I ran across a couple of years ago. Other posts since then have shown a fasciated firewheel, […]

  13. […] is new to you or you’d like a refresher, you can find a discussion of the phenomenon in a post about a fasciated Liatris from a couple of years ago. Posts since then have shown examples of five other fasciated […]


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