Sex in the Garden

Now that I have your attention…

Few of you know that I’m a gardener. In fact, I also write an inspirational blog titled Victory Garden Day by Day, which combines garden photography with motivational sayings.

Ok, so truth be told, I’m mainly a weeder, but that’s how gardening works. When you start your garden, you see visions of lush, beautiful flowerscapes in your mind. Beautiful flowers in an array of colors blooming everyplace, stretching into the distance as far as you can see, or at least to the property line.

A few years later, you’re a slave to weeds and there’s no way out. Trust me on this one.

One of my friends refers to me as a “weed terrorist” because I walk around every single day and watch herd over those pesky weeds – seeking them out wherever they may be hiding. She knows about weed terrorism personally because she is too. All gardeners will be smiling about now. You know who you are!

Today, on my daily rounds, I found something extremely interesting in the garden – a Hibiscus plant with an extra petal in the middle where part of the stamen should be.

Discovery is a wonderful thing!

Here’s a front and side view.

Not being a plant biologist, I knew this was a mutation, but I didn’t know the specifics.

Being “cute,” I posted this to my Facebook page and said, “Hey look, a mutation.” What else would you expect from a DNA junkie?

I gotta tell you, I love the Facebook community. My friend, Leah LaPerle Larkin (thednageek), who, we discovered is also my cousin through my Acadian lines (thank you DNA matching), has a Ph.D in biology with a focus on phylogenetics and chimed in. Turns out, she knew what kind of a mutation occurred. She directed me to the Wikipedia page titled, ABC model of flower development, which provides some great graphics.

What you’re seeing is a mutation, in action, in the flowers sex organs. Seriously!

As it turns out, there are three types of genes involved in plant sexual development, allowing them to reproduce, as shown above.

A diagram illustrating the ABC model in Arabidopsis. Class A genes (blue) affect sepals and petals, class B genes (yellow) affect petals and stamens, class C genes (red) affect stamens and carpels. In two specific whorls of the floral meristem, each class of organ identity genes is switched on.

Like humans, a plant needs all of their sexual organs to reproduce. Yes, we call them flowers and leaves, but they are not a matter of beauty to a plant, but the very foundation of plant reproduction. In order to reproduce, all of the plants parts need to be present and in working order.

By Laura Aškelovičiūtė – Student work dedicated to Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36730565

According to wiki:

A diagram illustrating the ABC model. Class A genes affect sepals and petals, class B genes affect petals and stamens, class C genes affect stamens and carpels. In two specific whorls of the floral meristem, each class of organ identity genes is switched on.

Further in the article, under analysis of mutants, we note that “some organs develop in a location where others should develop.” This is called a homeotic mutation.

  • Mutations in type C genes, these mutations affect the reproductive verticils, namely the stamen and the carpels. The A. thaliana mutant of this type is called AGAMOUS, it possesses a phenotype containing petals instead of stamen and sepals instead of carpels.

There you go, petals instead of stamen.

So now you know about plant reproduction, aka sex in the garden, and mutations.

And you thought gardening was boring!

You also know what exciting lives Leah and I live on Saturday night.

You just never know what a font of knowledge your cousins that you meet through genetic genealogy are going to turn out to be. Thanks again Leah.

17 thoughts on “Sex in the Garden

  1. > That was fascinating! And it brought a smile! Thanks! Can’t wait to show off my new knowledge. Lol

    Sent from my iPhone

    > On Aug 19, 2017, at 10:49 PM, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

    > That was fascinating! And it brought a smile! Thanks! Can’t wait to show off my new knowledge. Lol > >

  2. Your post brought a smile to my face- I too spend much of my life weeding. But I also enjoy seeing the science of nature and the beauty even in a mutation. Last night we were marveling at the variation in size of the same species of bees visiting pink ice flowers, and I am about to pick blackberries and be amazed at aggregate fruits and the whole process of fruit ripening. Thinking about the anatomy, the biological processes such as photosynthesis, and even the DNA involved makes gardening even more interesting. And the research you did on a Saturday night sounds much more fun than being out partying!

    • So do I. My daughter got possession of her first house this week and you know the very first thing I was doing on the very first day. I’m jealous. Her dirt is better than mine.

      • Dirt (good soil) isn’t built up in a day. (“Rome wasn’t built in a day”, either.) As with most things in life, it takes a while. But several things can accelerate it – such as composting and adding decayed leaves. Spreading mowed grass clippings as a garden mulch during summer also helps, as it smothers weeds.

        Composting is easy. Put ALL your vegetable scraps in a ventilated container outdoors. Old milk crate type boxes work great for this, as they can be stacked. Invest in a leaf shredder, as it is worth every penny spent on the machine. In the fall.rake the leaves, shred them, spread them over your garden and let them winter over. In spring dig the rotted leaves into the soil. Earthworms will be generated, and they will do the rest of the job of soil improvement.

        Then everyone will be jealous of *your* dirt – and also of how well your garden grows. 😉

  3. Oh Roberta – what fun! And about that weed-pulling compulsion – you’re welcome to come to my house anytime. We can alternate weeding/cooking and genealogy all day long (you pull, I cook). Great post – the beauty and variation in flowers is staggering – I particularly love irises and gladioli with all their variation. And of course homeotic genes are in humans, fruit flies, etc. If they don’t turn on in exact sequence and time, dire results can occur – a leg sticking out of a fly’s head, for example. As a cell biologist I loved working with DNA at the lab bench and now in retirement continuing to work with it in genetic genealogy. Love that molecule!

  4. Roberta, when in the world do you sleep? Genealogy, quilting, gardening – any of which can consume one’s time – then there’s those trips – amazing.!!!

  5. Remarkable email. Splendid. Interesting. Fascinating. Keep firing these off occasionally. Change of scenery wakes us all up. Ken Porter

    On Sat, Aug 19, 2017 at 10:48 PM, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy wrote:

    > Roberta Estes posted: “Now that I have your attention… Few of you know > that I’m a gardener. In fact, I also write an inspirational blog titled > Victory Garden Day by Day, which combines garden photography with > motivational sayings. Ok, so truth be told, I’m mainly a weeder” >

  6. Roberta, Considering your many interests and the products you produce, how do you allocate your time? Do you have a regimented daily schedule or do you follow your heart each day?

    • My schedule is relatively set. This means that I treat my job as anyone else would, except I work longer hours in my office. However, I also punctuate my day with a walk through the garden, and I sometimes quilt for my lunch break. I don’t watch TV or anything like that unless there is something very specific that I’m interested in, like the Who Do You Think You Are shows. If I could figure out how not to eat or sleep, I’d gladly give those two things up. I do schedule “quilt days” every so often with my quilt sisters. On those days, we take the entire day to quilt.

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