Monday, August 24, 2009

Mother Nature Stuns Horticultural World

William Underwood found the vibrant flower on Monday amongst his other yellow chrysanthemums Photo: MASONS

William Underwood, 73, of Cavendish, Suffolk, UK found this bi-coloured chyrsanthemums among the other ones in his garden.

Experts say the split in colour directly down the middle is caused by a very rare genetic mutation. The plant has only one stems and one head.

The retired long-distance lorry driver bought the flower seeds from a nursery near Chichester, West Sussex. His comment: "I was amazed.

"I have been growing flowers and vegetables in my garden for years; but, have never seen anything as strange as this. I've seen two different coloured flowers growing on one stem but have never seen one flower head that is split exactly down the middle. My wife was a flower arranger before she died of cancer and I think she would have been pretty impressed with this flower – although I don't know how I've grown it."

James Armitage, a botanist from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), said the flower was a mutation only ever seen about five times a year in Britain.

He said: "Bi-coloured flowers are an abnormality and while we take tens of thousands of calls here every year we don't hear of very many.

"The phenomenon probably occurs at a very early stage of the flower's development, probably when it consists of just two cells.

"At this stage, one cell suffers a mutation in its flower colour genes that leads a different colour to be expressed.

"As the cells divide, half are of the new colour and half are the standard colour. This results in a very odd-looking flower with a definite demarcation line down the middle.

"We only hear of a handful every year and they are rare."

There are about 650 different types of chrysanthemum spread across the Europe and Asia and they were first cultivated in China almost 2500 years ago.

They famously bring a splash of colour to gardens in late summer and autumn and are often outlast almost every other flower in cold, wet conditions.

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