Chimeras in the Garden

I noticed the iris in the image to the left one day and wondered what had caused one of my usually mauve irises to become a bicolored mauve and cream iris. I asked the nice people at ba.gardens for information, and Sean O'Hara responded with the following.

Looks like a chimeric sport in the making. A chimera is when only a portion of the growing tip mutates, making for a mixture of different tissue, in this case, some producing cream flowers, some producing mauve. 'Chimera' was the name of a mythological beast with a human head, a lions body, and the wings of an eagle - alluding to a mixture of 'tissues'. Many variegated plants are chimeras, which is why they can tend to revert to all green or occasionally all yellow/white. Those cultivars with highly twisted stems (e.g. 'Corkscrew Willow') are also chimeras, with one type of tissue growing slower than the other. Yours is more subtle, apparently only detectable when in flower.

It is likely that your plant might be a selected mutation anyway, and is now tending to mutate 'back' to the 'parent' plant. It would be interesting to watch the plant and try and separate our this portion to watch more closely. It is best to transplant/divide these native beauties in the fall when cooler weather starts to approach (otherwise you can easily lose the plant). Both colors seem like some I've seen in the trade, but then you never know what might happen - you could end up with a completely new form to add to the hundreds of other irises in the world! ;-)

Sean O.

[e-mail:Jen] Jennifer
Yahoo! options

[Free Speech Online Blue Ribbon Campaign]
Fight for your right to standards!
Fight for your right to web standards!

9914 hits since September 2, 1999

This page was last modified Thursday, 25-Mar-2004 14:56:44 PST