By Lindsay Hendricks, Assistant Director of Horticulture
Many of us have probably heard the term ‘chimera’ before. You know, the mythological Greek creature with a lion’s head, goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail? Basically, a made-up creature composed of incongruous parts. As mythological as this concept is in the animal kingdom, it is actually a very common phenomenon in the realm of plants.
The Blazin’ Lime iresine in this photo is a chimera, notice the leaf that has a rose-colored patch on it. Chimeras arise when a cell undergoes a mutation—whether it be spontaneous or induced—which results in the cells of different genotypes (genetic makeup) growing in adjacent plant tissue. A great example of this phenomenon is a variegated plant. All the cells in a variegated leaf originated from the same meristematic tissue (areas of active cell division and growth) in the shoot. However, some of the cells have mutated and are now unable to synthesize chlorophyll—these tissues now appear white or yellow instead of green! The same concept is occurring in the leaf of this Blazin’ Lime iresine. Perhaps this is how the cultivar Blazin’ Rose was discovered!?
Other examples of chimeras in the plant world are fruit color in apples, thornless blackberries and fuzzless peaches!
For more detailed and technical explanations (as well as photos) check out the articles below: