albino-bamboo

Plant albinism

In some plants, albinism is quite common

In some plants, albinism is quite common

Albinism in plants is partial or complete absence of green chlorophyll pigment, which is essential for any plant to convert inorganic molecules into larger, organic molecules. Albinism interferes with photosynthesis which often leads to plant’s death. Well, unless the plant is parasitic, it doesn’t stand a chance of survival without photosynthesis. In the case of partial plant albinism, there is some chlorophyll production, but there are also parts of the plant that are lacking the green pigment. Partial albinism can be the cause of plant tissue variegation, such as variegated leaves, fruits, flowers or stems. In some cases partial albinism causes flowers to appear white even if the plant’s chlorophyll production is otherwise normal. According to one of the theories I’ve came across when reading about the issue, albino seedlings lacks a trigger hormone which is essential to initiate the chlorophyll production. Seeds can loose some of the needed hormones during storage, possibly due to mould infection. Seedlings that appear completely white or yellow usually die in the first couple of weeks, when they use all the food stored inside the seed.

Albino Phyllostachys arcana 'Luteosulcata' seedling

Albino Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedling

Some plants, including many bamboo species, can have quite a lot of genetic mutations that cause albinisim. While germinating Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seeds, I noticed a large number of sprouts that were light pink, white or yellow colour and had no green pigment. Some of the first leafs had also shown minor difference in strength of green colour. There is a chance, that the lighter green seedlings will end up as partial albinos. Seeds usually store enough energy for the bamboo seedlings to grow up to three leaves, before they deplete the reserves, which makes them less dependant on nutrients from the growing medium. In later phase of growth, different colours can be the result of nutrient deficiencies, but at the stage of small seedling, that can’t really be the cause. The seedling colour could be slightly different because of other factors, for example, difference in stored enzymes or hormones, seed age, physical damage or genetic mutation.

Bamboo seedlings

Bamboo seedlings

Albino bamboos will perish in around two or three weeks. I might try to keep them around for a while longer, using lightly sugared water solution and foliar feeding. The albinism is supposed to be unconditional, without a chance for the seedlings to somehow restart chloroplast production. I will try to foliar feed those seedlings with plant matter from healthy bamboo leaves. If the theory about plant lacking triggering hormone is right and if those hormones can travel into the albino seedlings through the leaf via diffusion or through stomata, perhaps introducing the albino seedling to hormones from healthy leaves can trigger the plants to start producing green photosynthetic pigment and avoid certain death.

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Goji flower

Goji berry

Goji flower

Goji flower

Every couple of years, there’s a plant that gets widely popular and several years ago, Goji berries were sold in vast quantities due to their alleged health benefits. Goji which is also called wolfberry, is the fruit of Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense. Both shrubs are from the nightshade family, which includes potato, tomato, tobacco and chili peppers. They can grow up to 2 or 3 meters tall and can either be trained as a grape vine or left growing in a shrub form.

Goji flowers attract bees

Goji flowers attract bees

It offers good cold hardiness and drought tolerance, can grow in all kinds of soil and likes full sun. Flowers first appear in early June. Bees around here seem to love the flowers, even if they ignored them completely at first. First couple of seasons there were no pollinators that would show any interest in Goji flowers, bees were all around, but haven’t really visited the plant. Without pollinators, Goji flowered normally, but they only managed to set a couple of berries. In a couple of years bees started visiting the flowers. Berries start ripening around August and usually don’t stop until the first frost.

Goji plants can easily be propagated using cuttings or root divisions. One time, when I pruned the shrub, I left branches laying on the ground for a while and later discovered that many of them rooted. Before the growing season ended, they managed to create strong root system and first flowers started to appear. Branches will root if you place them into glass of water or moist soil. They can also be grown from seeds, but it takes quite a bit more time and it isn’t really the best option because of easy rooting of cuttings.

Even if you are not into healthy food (like me), Goji can offer a lot. It attracts bees and offers them food from early summer to late fall and when berries start to get ripe, you get to see the birds picking them for you.

Bee carrying Goji flower pollen on its legs

Bee carrying Goji flower pollen on its legs

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Starting seedlings with some help from friendly mushrooms

Bamboo seedlings sprouting among mushrooms

Bamboo seedlings sprouting among mushrooms

Last week, I started germinating the remaining Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seeds. I used cheap half composted potting soil that actually looks more like peat moss than soil. It works great for my seedlings when I mix it with sand and some garden soil. The last bag I bought was infected with mycelium and fungal spores that decided to start growing when I opened the bag and started using the soil. Even after a couple of months when the soil remained completely dried out in the corner, waiting for the next batch of seedlings, fungus remained active and when I started germinating the seeds, small mushrooms appeared all over the pot.

Albino seedling growing next to a mushroom

Albino seedling growing next to a mushroom

I don’t think there’s any symbiotic relationship, mycorrhiza, between fungus and the seedlings, but who knows they are not harmful to the plants and if nothing else, they help to break down the dead plant matter in the soil and unlock nutrients that can be used by neighbouring bamboo seedlings. I was thinking, if these small mushrooms can dwell happily inside the potting soil, there must be other, hopefully beneficial mycorrhizal fungi as well. I’ve seen there are several albino seedlings growing among the healthy bamboo seedlings, hopefully they can use symbiosis with fungi and live long enough to decide and become a nice variegated bamboo cultivars. :)

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Luteosulcata seedling after 3 months

Variegated Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedling

Transition from light green to variegated leaves

Transition from light green to variegated leaves

I’ve already been trying to figure out if one of the Phyllostachys arcana seedlings is variegated in one of my previous posts. Since then, the seedling remained variegated and new shoot(s) that appeared also showed the same pattern. Three months after germination, the variegated seedling started to lag a lot. It also shows a lot of issues that were never evident on any other non-variegated seedlings. Despite nearly identical conditions, variegated seedling only managed to push out 4 (quite weak) shoots. Two of them may actually be branches of the shoot. At the same stage shoots on green seedlings appeared at least three times thicker, grew faster and seemed much healthier. Seedling also couldn’t grow roots as fast as it’s green siblings and only managed to grow the roots enough to become visible through the drainage holes after 3 months. Green seedlings “colonized” their pots in around a month.

 

Luteosulcata seedling after 3 months

Luteosulcata seedling after 3 months

Compared to other seedlings, variegated Phyllostachys arcana did not take first re-potting well. None of the green seedlings had shown any signs of stress, on the other hand, the variegated seedling started wilting the leaves and further slowed down growth. I kept it shaded for a couple of days, so it had a chance to recover. After two days, I was able to expose it to strong growing light again without signs of stress, which means it was able to regenerate or replace the damaged roots relatively fast. Growth speed remained slow and like I already mentioned, roots needed at least a month after I placed it in separate pot to reach the drainage holes.

Two pale shoots emerged

Two pale shoots emerged

In the endĀ it did start showing some increase in its growth speed just after it passed 3 months mark. It managed to put out two small and pale shoots at the same time. Shoots of non-variegated seedlings appear much darker green with a hint of purple. Shoots are much smaller and fewer in number, which can be expecte. Variegated seedling lacks a lot of chlorophyll which is present abundantly in the green versions of the Phyllostachys arcana seedlings. Increasing leaf mass should improve overall growth a lot in the following weeks.

Dark green vs. pale variegated seedling. Same age, same growing conditions.

Dark green vs. pale variegated seedling. Same age, same growing conditions.

Huge difference between green and variegated seedling

Huge difference between green and variegated seedling

Culms are pale, almost white

Culms are pale, almost white

Culms get coloured when exposed to sun

Culms get coloured when exposed to sun

When culm sheath falls off, the culm is much paler than culms of green seedlings. It also gets ‘sunburn’ when culms are exposed to sun or strong growing light, but again, not nearly as intense and dark, possibly due to much brighter culm colour. Additional details about culms will become available later, when the stems get thicker. Possible sulcus colour will also start appearing when seedling matures enough.

Interesting variegation pattern continues on all the new shoots. Leaves are less robust and are more prone to show drought damage.

Interesting variegation pattern continues on all the new shoots. Leaves are less robust and are more prone to show drought damage.

Did any of you ever see a variegated bamboo (or any other plant), that changes leaf colour the same way. Usually the leaf emerges variegated and it doesn’t change it’s colour as it matures, this seedling, however, gradually turns from almost completely lime green to variegated colour. The stripes are visible from the beginning, but you have to inspect the leaf really closely to detect minor difference in colour, stripes appear a littleĀ bit darker than the rest of the leaf. In young shoots, first leaves take longer to transform and then, each additional leaf seems to variegate quicker.

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