Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Cedar Elm trees for Rockport, TX
January 08, 2010 - Cedar Elm trees for the Gulf Coast area? I live alongside a fresh water lake with sandy soil that is 2 miles from the bays. Along the shoreline, I'd like to replace a Weeping Willow that is in decl...
view the full question and answer

Distance apart to plant oaks in Denton TX
August 26, 2009 - How far apart should I plant Pin Oaks and Shumard Red Oaks in our yard? All around us are native oaks, but our backyard has none. I want to create a "forest" that looks like they are native, but n...
view the full question and answer

Fruit on Mexican olive in Austin
June 05, 2008 - Does Mexican Olive set fruit in Austin? Does there need to be a male and female tree or not. How old does the plant have to be to set fruit? Mine is three years old but no olives. I need to know ...
view the full question and answer

care of Red Oak seedling; Quercus buckleyi
October 30, 2007 - We purchased one of the Red Oaks seedlings for sale to members from the LBJ Ranch ($45). Now that we have it at home we are wondering about the care and feeding. We failed to ask any questions or pi...
view the full question and answer

Cherry trees in the North Texas area
April 21, 2009 - Will cherry trees grow well in the North Texas area?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.