En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - April 11, 2007

From: austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Variegated leaves on Ungnadia speciosa (Mexican buckeye)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I grew some mexican buckeyes from seed last year and one of them has variegated leaves. I haven't seen this before- have I just not looked at enough mexican buckeyes up close or is this an uncommon finding?

ANSWER:

No one I've talked with here at the Wildflower Center has ever seen a Ungnadia speciosa (Mexican buckeye) with variegated leaves, so I guess we can say it is rather rare occurrence.

Variegation, with white sectors in the green leaves, occurs when the chloroplasts (the photosynthetic apparatus in the cells of plants) lose their ability to make chlorophyll. This can occur when the DNA of the chloroplast is mutated. Cells of plants have from several to many chloroplasts per cell. Chloroplasts themselves reproduce inside the cells by simple division, so once a mutation occurs in a chloroplast it will be copied. As the number of mutated chloroplasts increase inside a cell, the chances of a dividing cell isolating only mutated chloroplasts in one of its daughter cells also increases. As the cells divide, those that receive only the mutated chloroplasts (and no normal chloroplasts) will be white. These cells with only mutated chloroplasts will divide to form more white cells without normal chloroplasts. On the other hand, cells that have at least one normal chloroplast will be green. This is how the variegation occurs.

These white sectors without chlorophyll are not capable of carrying out photosynthesis to supply the plant with nutrients; therefore, highly variegated plants with a lot of white sectors tend to be smaller and weaker plants since only the green areas are producing the energy to allow the plant to grow.

Some plants exhibit other variegation patterns with red, purple, and yellow sectors. In this case, other pigments are masking the green of the chlorophyll and photosynthesis still occurs in those sectors.

Back to the rarity of a variegated Mexican buckeye, the reason it is relatively rare is probably a combination of the fact that the mutation rate is low and the chances of isolating only mutated chloroplasts in cell are also low, plus the fact that variegated plants are at a disadvantage for competing with normal plants.

You can read more about variegated leaves and plant variegation.


Ungnadia speciosa

Ungnadia speciosa

Ungnadia speciosa

 

 

More Trees Questions

Stump sprouting of Oak trees in the wildfire area in Bastrop, TX.
May 13, 2012 - We live in Bastrop, Texas, in the wildfire area. We lost all of our trees. The oak trees have "suckers" growing from the base of the burned tree that has been cut down. They look like little bushe...
view the full question and answer

Need options for smaller trees in neighborhoods in Austin, TX.
May 25, 2012 - Please discuss smaller tree options for typical Austin neighborhood yards. These houses are built close together on the sides, and only have smallish back yards. They just don't have space for big 50...
view the full question and answer

Pruning wax myrtles from Austin
March 29, 2011 - I've got some wax myrtles that have grown up in the last 10 years on my property line, completely volunteer. My neighbor has begun to grumble about too much shade on his yard. I'd like to trim them ...
view the full question and answer

Stumps of fallen oaks in Hurricane Irene from Newton PA
September 03, 2011 - Two large red oaks fell in the woods in our yard in Newtown PA due to Hurricane Irene. The trees have been removed, but the stumps remain. Please can you recommend some fast-growing, attractive, nativ...
view the full question and answer

Wild plum tree failing to bloom from Simonton TX
May 04, 2013 - I have a wild plum tree that has been in the ground for 3 or 4 years and it has not ever flowered. Why? I don't know what kind it is. I dug it up from a friends yard. Her wild plum trees have flowere...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center