The Alien Echinacea

By starlight1153 (starlight1153) on August 2, 2010

Have you ever had a plant that you expected to grow up, perform and bloom like the picture it was represented of when you bought it, only to find out you have something totally different. Not only different but totally alien looking? This is a story of an Echiancea that is growing and seems not to realize what it is doing is abnormal. Come take a look for yourself....

One thing that gardeners like to do is share plants.   Myself included.    I had a close friend  who loves  Echinacea  plants and desperately wanted an Echinacea  called  'Green Jewel.'     It just so happened  that I had  an extra one available and sent  it to her as a gift.    What I didn't know was that a year later  when that tiny plug plant I sent her grew up that she would be coming back to me asking me  what was going on with her plant.  

 Now if you have never seen and Echinacea, which has the common name of  Coneflower, most of the blooms look like this.   The bloom has petals that are daisy-like in a ring,  with a center eye which will later raise itself up and take on the shape of a small cone, hence, the nickname Coneflower. 2010-08-02/starlight1153/8f1d4d

Echiancea are not the fastest growing plants,  but given time and proper care, they will make a nice  clump of  flowers that are not only attractive in your garden, but also beneficial for hummingbirds, butterflies and food for forgaing birds  in the winter.  

Normally, the Echinacea plant will produce a stalk upon which a bud and bloom will develop.  Usually, you will find one bloom per stalk, even though the plant can make several stalks when it is mature enough. 

When the bloom has matured, and has died back, and if the plant is fertile, has been pollinated, from the center of the cone that has risen up and dried, seed will be produced.   You can either gather the seed to start new plants or leave it as a treat for the birds.  2010-08-02/starlight1153/e65849   


Coneflower blooms  come in pinks, white, and with the new hybridizing being done with them, you can even find ones that are shades of red, orange, yellow  and  even  green.  

It is the hybridized  'Green Jewel'  plant that is causing a minor commotion. 

Hybridizing can be done in several ways.   There is the old-fashioned way  which is putting pollen from one plant on to another, collecting  your seed, then growing out your seed and enjoying your new seedlings.  Each one of whom may or may not look like the "mother" plant.  This works well except when you are trying to create  new colors and forms with a plant that normally  does not come in those colors, shapes, or sizes.   Also this method  does not work well when you want to make a bunch of identical plants that look like your new seedling.  

To have all identical looking plants a process called "tissue-culturing" is done.   This is usually done in a lab and is a very epensive procedure.   In this lab, they will gather small tiny, tissue samples from off the "mother-plant" and  grow them in petri dishes on a specially made growth development food in a very sterile condition.   In the case of Echinacea's, it can take as long as 9 months to develop a small seedling plant from a piece of tissue.  

Now every once in awhile, Mother Nature likes to have a good laugh, and that includes to play quirky jokes on those who think they can manipulate her plants around by using test tubes.  This is one of those rare times. 2010-08-02/starlight1153/492fff

Echinacea "Green Jewel'  should look very similar like the above picture bloom and clump only in green.  That definately isn't what my gifted plant looks like.   It looks like this. 

At first glance you may think that what you are seeing is a bunch of stalks, with a lot of blooms,  right?   If you are you would be wrong. 

Yes, there are alot of stalkes,  but instead of each stalk just producing  one bloom,  each stalk  has mutliple blooms on it.   That would be ok,  if  it was the nature of the Echinacea stalk to split and make more individual blooms, each with its own seperate flower bloom, but that is not this plants nature.  

If it was you wouldn't have a Coneflower plant that looks like it has a fuzzy top. 2010-08-02/starlight1153/7e0a20What you are actually seeing in that cluster of blooms is one stalk that produced not only one bloom, but many blooms.    

Instead of that bloom just developing a cone head  like normal Coneflowers do.   That one bloom suddenly started to send out at first  what seems like  a few stray petals that would have given it the  "doubledecker" look.

Those additional petals instead morphed out to develop whole new minature stalks with new  baby blooms on them.

On some of the blooms,  those new  babies are now producing there own babies.   Developing  extra petals that are  just turning into more blooms.   The weight from all these extra blooms on blooms is weighing the orginal stalk down so much that they are just about laying over on their sides.  

If you look closely at this picture you can see exactly what I am talking about.2010-08-02/starlight1153/d36bf4  That is a pic of one bloom,  with 6 new  blooming  flowers developing all out of the center of the orginal center cone.   This type of alien behavior is from some piece of genetic DNA material that was passed on, or left out, when the original tissue culture was done.   

The new blooms that are rising from the orginal cone center do not have stems that are very long either and  it looks like each of those additional babies are  going to be making the same type of babies.  Not normal behavior at all for this genus. 

Hybridizing can be alot of fun, but you need to be prepared for alot of surprises too.    My friend loved the color and the blooms on this cultivar.    I think  her wish to see these pretty blooms has more than doubled  beyond her expectations.            2010-08-02/starlight1153/8d5a0b 


A special thanks to Carolyn for sharing her 'Green Jewel' pics which allowed me to write this story.

All photo's are copywrited and may not be used without written permission from author.


Related articles:
Coneflower, Echinacea, Echinacea blooms, Echinacea seed, Green Jewel, growth of Echinacea, hybridizing, plant morphology, tissue culture

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Disease clintbrown Aug 11, 2010 12:36 AM 3
Sort of like having octuplets charlenesplants Aug 10, 2010 5:45 PM 2
Love it!! marti Aug 3, 2010 5:53 PM 5

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