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Fascinating fasciation, a random oddity in the garden

Have you ever seen fasciation in the garden? It's a random oddity that can be fascinating.

By Betty Earl / April 7, 2010

An odd growth, called fasciation, shows two Muscari azureum blossoms (on the left) atop one flatter, thicker stem. It's an interesting natural 'mistake.'

Courtesy of Betty Earl

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If I had had any doubts before, after these past five days of temperatures in the mid-to-high 70s F. (23-26 C)), spring – that very brief interlude between the end of the last March snowfall and the first tropical heat wave in early May – is truly here.

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In my plant stand, the flats of pansies started months ago have grown to fruition. Though flats of pansies are inexpensive and readily available at most big box stores, garden centers, and nurseries, this year, struck down with the winter blahs, I started my own plants from seed.

Highly popular in the Victorian era, pansies were adored for their exquisite colors, their sweet scent, and their tantalizing beauty.

Although technically pansies are perennial, most varieties do not overwinter reliably in my Midwest garden, so I treat them as cool-season annuals, planting them out in early spring or late fall whenever the mood strikes me.

Many gardeners grow these charming plants with their delicate-looking flowers in containers or window boxes for the earliest of spring color, I prefer to plant mine in the garden, where, besides making a lovely complement to the early spring bulbs, they will also provide additional color to the landscape while the bulb foliage ripens.

Thus, trowel in hand, I found myself out in the garden eye-to-blossom with this season’s first “surprise” – a fasciated muscari!

Look more closely

Plants don’t always grow as you think they should. Sometimes, they develop odd-looking lumps, bumps, or distortions. And sometimes, they're just plain weird.

If you look closely at the picture of the muscari, the twin blossoms at the left side of the picture end in the same stem.

Many times, fasciation forms a deformed looking flower, but in this case, it appears as if two stalks have merged together to form a single stem that appears thicker – and flatter – than normal.

This odd-growth is called fasciation. Coming from the Latin word fascia, meaning “to fuse,” it is an interesting phenomenon to view up close. In my garden, the muscari fasciated in the most fantastic manner – one stem, but two separate, yet perfect, blossoms.

Basically, it all boils down to a natural "mistake." And one type of mistake that is occasionally found in plants is known as a fasciated or crested growth form.

What causes fasciation?

Fasciation is thought to be the result of internal influences such as a hormonal imbalance or genetic predisposition, but it could also just as easily be caused by several external factors, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, insects, mites, frost, and/or physical damage to the growing point of the plant.

Fasciation has been induced experimentally by applications of plant hormones, wounding or atypical day lengths, but most appear by chance with no obvious cause. And if you’re wondering if this “mistake” could spread to other plants in your garden, relax, it can’t. In most cases, fasciation is just a random, fascinating oddity.

Betty Earl is one of nine garden writers who blog regularly at Diggin' It. She's the author of “In Search of Great Plants: The Insider’s Guide to the Best Plants in the Midwest.” She also writes a regular column for Chicagoland Gardening Magazine and The Kankakee Journal and numerous articles for Small Gardens Magazine, American Nurseryman, Nature’s Garden, and Midwest Living Magazine, as well as other national magazines. She is a garden scout for Better Homes and Gardens and a regional representative for The Garden Conservancy.

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