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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.

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

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Wednesday - June 26, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation, Seeds and Seeding, Wildflowers
Title: Why Did Gaillardia and Aquilegia Changed Color?
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

Both a Gaillardia pulchella and two red columbines bloomed normally last summer, but this summer the Gaillardia's petals are all yellow and one columbine is white and the other is yellow. What caused this change in the flowers? I don't think research has produced gene therapies to change flower colors. The soil is the typical east Austin soil. Is this common?

ANSWER:


Yes, although not frequent, it is not uncommon for Gaillardia pulchella and Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine) to hybridize with other related family members nearby and result in seedling offspring that bloom in a different color.

Here’s a comment from our website about this situation: Aquilegia canadensis readily hybridizes with the popular Southwestern yellow columbines (A. chrysantha, etc.), yielding some striking yellow-and-red color combinations in the flowers. To maintain pure strains of any Aquilegia species and prevent hybridizing (which A. canadensis will readily do), keep different species widely separated - not a surefire protection, but reduces the likelihood.

And lastly regarding Gaillardia pulchella, since it is an annual and reseeds the next year, the result may produce seedling variation and occasionally the three-cleft rays are solid orange or yellow.

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

Golden columbine
Aquilegia chrysantha

Indian blanket
Gaillardia pulchella

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