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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.

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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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Sunday - May 16, 2010

From: Spokane, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: General Botany
Title: Albinism in plants.
Answered by: Damon Waitt

QUESTION:

Greetings, I was wondering what you know of albinism in plants? I know I've found a few articles about it online. I discovered my only albino plant last summer. It was an albino dogbane plant growing amongst other relatively normal ones. It was noticeably smaller and a bit shriveled looking, yet had the morphology of dogbane. Thanks for your time.

ANSWER:

Yes, we know a little about it. Albinism in plants, as in animals, is a genetic condition that stops the production of pigment. In the case of plants, the pigment is chlorophyll an essential ingredient in the process of photosynthesis. The genetic condition can occur in seed in which case the non-photosynthetic seedlings quickly deplete their starch reserves and die. The genetic condition can also arise in the body of a mature plant from a mutation in a cell that gives rise to other cells. In this case the albino plant may survive (albeit weakly) as long as it can derive nourishment from the non-albino part of the plant. 

 

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