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.