Portraits of Wildflowers

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Archive for July 11th, 2014

A heady sort of weirdness

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Mexican Hat with Extra Set of Rays at Tip 5401

Now that everyone’s on board with ray flowers and disk flowers in plants of the sunflower family, here’s something strange I found on June 24th at the Floral Park Dr. entrance to Great Hills Park in my neighborhood. I noticed a Mexican hat plant, Ratibida columnifera that had some normal flower heads but also had 10 heads (I counted) with an extra set of ray flowers growing helter-skelter from the tip of the column of disk flowers. That’s a place where ray flowers have no right to be, but that’s right where they were. When I asked some knowledgeable people about these unusual flower heads, one suggested a virus might be responsible and another attributed the strangeness to somatic mutation; the first could even be the cause of the second.

Some of you will remember pictures I’ve showed of the phenomenon called fasciation, so I should say that I saw no signs on this Mexican hat plant of the elongation or flattening normally associated with fasciation. No, this was a different weirdness, one I hadn’t seen before. Now you’ve seen it too.

As a postscript, let me add that on July 9th, after I’d prepared this post, about a quarter of a mile away from the location of this plant I came across a Mexican hat flower head that in addition to its normal ray flowers had a single small ray flower growing sideways from the top of its column of disk flowers.

UPDATE (July 19, 2015): This morning Linda Leinen of The Task at Hand alerted me to an article offering a possible genetic explanation for this strangely formed Mexican hat.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 11, 2014 at 5:55 AM

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