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Mr. Smarty Plants - Possible reasons for yellow heads for Indian Blanket

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Tuesday - December 13, 2005

From: Fort Worth, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany
Title: Possible reasons for yellow heads for Indian Blanket
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I had Indian Blanket flowers that had almost pure yellow heads. Will the seeds of these flowers produce plants that will have yellow flowers?

ANSWER:

The short answer is—"Possibly, but probably not." Here are four simple explanations for the all-yellow flowers and the possible outcomes for the next generation:

1. The set of instructions (the genes) that determine color, or pattern of the colors, was altered only in the flower petals and not in the egg or pollen cells the flower produced. Thus, the change would not be hereditary since it wouldn't be passed on to the next generation in the seeds.

2. There was a recessive mutation (meaning both the pollen and the egg must have the mutant gene) sometime in the past that was passed down unseen until a pollen grain and a egg cell, both with the mutation, combined to produce a plant with the solid yellow flowers. If these plants self-pollinated, then you certainly should get all yellow flowers; or, if the egg cells from these plants received pollen with the same recessive mutation from another plant, all the flowers should be yellow.

3. It was a dominant mutation (meaning that only the pollen OR the egg cell needed to have the mutant gene) that caused the all-yellow variant. In that case, you might expect to see ~1/2 the seeds of the all-yellow plants producing all-yellow flowers.

4. Sometimes a component of the environment, such as soil chemistry or composition, can affect how genes are expressed; so, you might or might not see yellow flowers in the next generation.

Those are relatively simple explanations; but, in reality, genetics of flower color (indeed, most genetics) is not usually so simple. In many cases it is the interaction of many genes, often combined with environmental influences, that contribute to the final product of flower color and pattern. Several generations of controlled crosses might be able to determine the correct explanation.

This is probably a lot more than you wanted to know. So, in short, you'll just have to wait and see if you get more all-yellow Indian blankets (Gaillardia pulchella).
 

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