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Plant’s weird deformity is fasciation

Published: Thu, August 30, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m.

Q. I have a weird deformity on my plant. I’m wondering if it’s a disease and if I should get rid of it?

Bill from Ellsworth

A. A friend sent me a picture with the question, “What is it?” Of course, I asked more details as I first thought he was talking about a disease. I researched and could not come up with an answer. I spoke with Extension staff about what it could be. This was an ah-ha moment when I heard about fasciation, and this seemed to be what was going on with the plant.

I researched this unusual topic and found a lot of available information. All plants have unique characteristics, and we use these to plan our yards, gardens and beds. These characteristics are usually height, color, texture, days of fruition, shapes, sizes, etc., and help us determine our desired garden plan.

Meristem cells (like our “stem” cells) make leaves, flowers, fruit, and once in a while, the “copying” blueprint for the plant goes awry. The plants look different, with a concentration of leaves or flower buds in a given area, or tendrils.

Any plant can make this mutation to grow into a deviation of the plant’s norm. Plant diseases, chemicals, and other injury may also cause similar effects in plant tissue. In fact, in poinsettias a chemical called fascination made of the plant hormones cytokinin and giberellin is used to promote the variations people find desirable at Christmas time. Chemical exposure can also come from lawn care where “drift” chemicals carry on the wind to garden plants. Also, celosia, or cockscomb is bred for elaborate combs and plumes for flower gardens, as many people like the look with other flowers.

This abnormal deformity many times manifests as flat ribbon stems in otherwise round stems, or spirals, and also tendrils. Or, it can be the multi-tailed carrot, a squash with a “Jimmy Durante” nose, or a cucumber that goes as two. Cucumbers are especially susceptible to this mutation. Any plant with this mutation may be able to carry the gene and should not be replanted from seeds.

To see some cool photos of this abnormality and read more information on the topic, go to http://go.osu.edu/fasciation.

Today’s question is answered by Stephanie Hughes, OSU Extension master gardener volunteer in Mahoning County at the Mahoning Plant and Pest Clinic. Call the clinic at 330-533-5538 to submit your questions. Regular clinic hours are 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays.

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