A Variegated Chimera?

As you look at the image below your first thought may be there is no variegation. The first 3 rows of leaves are devoid of any chlorophyll. Finally on the forth row of older leaves you see they have developed the chlorophyll and variegation, hence the ability to produce food for this plant and survive. (Click on the image to enlarge)

This was a chimera African violet( chimera flower) that was given to me that had moderate amount of variegation, nothing very special. I propagated it using my standard method (tissue culture) and placed it in a 2 oz plastic cup to grow. As the space in the standard growing stands (with fluorescent lights) was all occupied I place the new plantlet under some LEDs that I use to grow plants that require a bit more light. I currently have a small avocado tree growing under it.

Typically I grow the African violets under a light intensity of 3,000 to 5,000 lux. Under the this LED the lux is about 10,000. I have grow other African violets (non-variegated) under it in the past with no negative impact to the plant and saw normal growth. As 20,000 to 30,000 lux would be consider the light intensity of direct sunlight 10,000 lux does not seem unreasonable. So why the total lack of chlorophyll on this variegated plant?

I am not certain if this is a true sport of the plant I propagated hence the white leaves or it is a reaction (as African violets have) to light intensity that is too great for them. In those cases they begin to produce carotenoids. Carotenoids are yellow, orange, or red pigments (in this case in the leaf), that protects the plant from the adverse or deleterious impact of a the light intensity that is too high for that specific plant type.  They do this by absorbing the light energy for use in photosynthesis, and providing photo-protection by a quenching process. Now I am not certain that this is the case here but it is a possibility. Or this is just a sport with an excessive amount of variegation. I will move the plant to the standard growing area of the florescent lights and what happens two months or so will clarify the story. We shall see.

Chimera African Violets and Lighting

I found on YouTube an outstanding presentation on lighting for African violets that was put out by the African Violet Society of America. The presentation is called “Spectral Enlightenment: One Light Does Not Fit All“, by Dr. Minh Bui. It is excellent! Lighting requirements for chimera African violets are the same as non-chimera African violets. But with African violets, proper lighting and watering are 80+% of growing success.

Click on the above image to see this most remarkable presentation.

This 46-minute presentation covers topics such as Blue-Red light ratios, what is best for growth and what is best for blooming, fluorescent and LED lighting, and African violet physiology under various types of lights. It is a must-see (even if you watch it in parts) for anyone interested in growing African violets under artificial lights.

F2 Sport of Yachiyo Tabata

Click on above and below images to enlarge.

This is the image of the F2 sport of Yachiyo Tabata. Contains the exact traits of the original F1 sport. I have in tissue culture the F3. All be it the original purple and pink edge coloration and fantasy streaks (on the parent plant) are much brighter and reside on the edge of the bloom and the sport appears to have the streaks go down the center of the bloom, which are much lighter. The white that was part of the pinwheel effect now is located at the edges of the bloom. From my perspective a nice genetic inversion. Although I wish the intensity of the purple-pink fantasy was brighter.

Shimai, Entire Plant Sports (in different directions)

The below image is a typical genetically stable Shimai chimera African violet.


The following image is a Shimai that all of a sudden started sporting multiple flowers all different and disorganized in respect to the standard chimera pinwheel pattern. As you can see one pinwheel bloom exists but it has a darker color as compared to the standard Shimai.

Entire Shimai plant sporting

Sport of Leaf Chimera “Little Stinker”

I have been using the same stem tissue culture propagation method for leaf chimeras as I use for other “flowering” chimera African violets. The outcomes are as expected, true Little Stinker plants. But not quite as consistently. I have seen more variants then I expected. Grant it most are true to the parent. But there are some really extreme variants. Here is one example and if it can grow (I have serious doubts) it would really be an unusual African violet. The below image is what I am referring to. Click on the image to enlarge.

What I saw in tissue culture and then transplanted to soil and it grew is the above plant. The leaves are white with the exception of green leaf edges which I circled in red a few to clarify my point. Now, this is growing in a 2 oz plastic container. It is small. But t was only a small fraction of this size when I placed it in the container not expecting it to grow at all for lack of a meaningful amount of chlorophyll. Because of the lack of chlorophyll on the leaf, I placed the plantlets under an LED light and maintained them at 10,000 Lux light intensity. That is a bit more than double a normal African violet. Also, there are 3 suckers attached to the main plantlet above. Below you can see I separated out the suckers.

If any of them will sustain themselves for any period it will most likely be plantlet A. It has a small root system and some clearly defined dark green leaf edges (chlorophyll). Plantlet B in my opinion has the 2nd best chance as it has a normal looking core and shape. Plant C is missing a nicely defined center core but it could be a matter of some time for development. Plantlet D, well time will tell, I am not optimistic for this one at all but the decision if it grows is not mine. The most striking thing to me so far that these plantlets are actually surviving and growing with so very little chlorophyll. The reason we do not see albino plants (and on the very rare occasions they will sprout in a number of different species) is that they die as a result of their inability to produce glucose (food for themselves) because they lack the chlorophyll needed for photosynthesis hence they starve to death. I will keep you updated on these four plants. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Yachiyo Tabata Sport

The below image is the typical looking Yachiyo Tabata. A prolific and generally stable Chimera African violet.

Yachiyo Tabata

Now the other day I observed a sport of Yachiyo Tabata as seen below. I have about 1/2 dozen of them currently and have propagated probably over 100 of them over the past years. This is only the second sport I have observed. This was the only bloom on this plant. The stem will be used for tissue culture with the intent of propagating more plants to ascertain if genetically this is a true sport and is genetically stable. The one petal has some damage and as it was the only bloom, I recorded it as is.

Yachiyo Tabata-Sport

As can be seen, the pink stripe with purple streaks is now present running down the center of the petals instead of the petal edges as shown on the top image. Also, the white stripe present in the top image has now moved to the bloom edges. The color intensity of the center streak appears lighter but never the less the pink color and purple streaks are present.

Change in Leaf Color Precedent To Change in Chimera African Violet Bloom

The image below and to the right is the normal Norton’s Elaine ((AVSA Reg# 9673) 07/31/2006 (J.Norton)). Note the green leaf and listed in First Class(AVSA directory of all African violet cultivars) as medium green leaf coloration.  As you can see the blooms are a chimera dark blue with white stripe bell-shaped blooms. As with numerous other observations I have had propagating chimera African violets, when I see a change in the leaf color, long before the bloom I know it will not bloom true. I have not yet had one single leaf change in color that did not produce a change in bloom. In Norton’s Elaine, the change from medium green leaf color to dark green leaf color has always resulted in dark blue (purple) blooms with loss of the chimera trait as below on the left-hand side. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Norton’s Elaine and sport

8E Danse Macabre Chimera African Violet

8E Danse Macabre

8E Danse Macabre has always fascinated me, from the name of the plant to the various images you can find on the web and the variations of it. The above image is of a plant I acquired this past fall. To the best of my knowledge, 8E Danse Macabre is not registered with the AVSA as I cannot find it in their database called “First Class” (which contains over 19,000 unique African violets). But images can be found on “Google Images” and there is noticeable variation among the same cultivar. For example, if you click on Image#1 is the first 8E Danse Macabre I had ever seen and is probably one of the most striking in my opinion. I acquired a sucker of it about four years ago and as you can see below, the outcome in terms of bloom was nothing like the original “Image 1” or the image above.

Sport of 8E Danse Macabre

Then there are other stunning images like Image#2

Image #3 specifically has the nice white around the petal edges but also I am seeing (as is in my plant also ) more speckled purple fantasy on the bloom. Although all the plant bloom images I can find have the purple stripes in the center with pink coloration between them the variability appears to be in the amount of white margin along the edges and the degree if any of purple fantasy. Regardless, it is a most interesting plant in name and image. As always, you can click on the above images to enlarge.

Chimera Foliage or Variegated Foliage?

A recent e-mail discussion and a conversation I had several weeks prior prompted me to post this. There is increasing interest in variegated foliage and there is confusion if the foliage is a chimera expression or the result of pure variegation and not a chimera expression. I think in many people’s minds one equals the other. But it does not.

Little Stinker Leaf Chimera

The above image is a large plant, almost 12 inches across. The variegation of the leaves is the consequence of a true chimera leaf situation. The below image is non-chimera variegation.

Variegated Leaf (non-chimeral)

So what is the difference? There are several sources. A rather technical explanation can be read and downloaded if interested by clicking here. 

A second explanation (easier to follow) focuses ONLY on chimera variegation with some very nice illustrations that can be reviewed by clicking here.

Simply stated from reading both articles, all variegated plants are not chimeras. The determining factor is how the color pattern is controlled. IF the variegation is the result of gene expression that is positionally dependent instead of variegation that is dependent on the genetics of the multiple genotypes in the plant then the plant is NOT a chimera. You can determine which is your plant by taking a leaf cutting and see what the leaf colors look like while concurrently reproduce a second plant using typical stem propagation (apical meristem).  If the leaf and stem plantlets you produce look the same it is not a chimera.  If on the other hand, the leaf plantlets look different then the parent leaves and the stem plantlet produced plants identical to the parent, then your parent plant is a chimera leaf plant. 

Click on the images above to enlarge.

Mauna Loa Mutation

Mauna Loa

The above image is the of Mauna Loa (Eyerdom)06/23/1998 AVSA Reg # 5336. The flower is a single chimera light rose star with a dark red stripe.  The Foliage is dark green with red on the underside of the leaf. The plant size at maturity is that of a standard African violet size plant.  About 5 years ago I noticed one flower stem produced two blooms on the stalk where both blooms had 6 petals. This happens on occasion but African violets will usually produce 5 petals per bloom with some variation like an occasional 6 or a rare 4 petal bloom.

What I did when I saw the two 7 petal bloom was tissue culture the stalk with the intent of producing a plant that has Mauna Loa flowers made up of 6 petals on each flower bloom. That was the goal. So the next generation plant was about 70% 6 petal blooms with a few blooms with 7 petal blooms and a couple of blooms with the standard 5 petals. I kept going (selecting the stalks with the most petals and producing another plant. I believe it was on the 4th generation of pushing this concept that ALL the petals of all the blooms on the plant looked like this! (below image)

Mutation of Mauna Loa

Not only were there NO 6 or 7 petal blooms, but the standard 5 petals Mauna Loa were smaller and pointed petals that were the result of the petal folding around. Not very attractive to be sure. And every single bloom looks like the above. This is not what I wanted, but apparently, what I want and what nature is willing to provide is different and nature always wins. (Click on the images to enlarge).

African Violet Double Chimera? Step One The Leaf

A couple of months ago I posted about the possible sporting of a Yukako to a double sport (Leaf Chimera and a Flower Chimera). Both situations must be demonstrated individually. It is easier or perhaps quicker to determine if the plant is a leaf chimera then a flower chimera. To ascertain if the leaf is a chimera or not one just needs to take the leaf and insert the leaf stem into a soil media and keep it moist (see above).

Within 2 months plantlets were produced. You can see in the above image the parent (original chimera leaf cutting) with the bi-color leaf (chimera). The plantlets produced have a majority of leaves as seen in “B” that are dark in color. Fewer leaves “A” are light green colored. And there are NO plantlets with the same bicolored (chimera) leaves.

I was able to separate out 6 plantlets and as you can see this demonstrates clearly that none of the plantlets are demonstrating bi-colored leaves. This is what one would expect if the parent leaf was a true chimera. It cannot be replicated by a leaf-cutting propagation method, just as a flower chimera cannot be replicated from a leaf cutting propagation process. This proves the point that the parent plant did in fact sport to a leaf chimera. I repeated this experiment with several more chimera leaves from the parent plant and the outcomes were the same, producing a majority of dark green-leaved plants and a minority of the lighter leaved plants and no chimera leaf plants.

Now the next step which will take about 6-8 months and that is to demonstrate this bloom is a chimera (or not).

Leaf Chimera African Violets

Little Stinker

About six months ago I purchased my first leaf chimera African violet, “Little Stinker”. (I wonder about the back story on the unusual name). I must admit as my focus has been on chimera blooms, I have had no experience with leaf chimera African violets. As I propagated a few from this plant pulling off suckers, I have noticed ever so slight variations in leaf patterns between the parent and plantlet. It just so happens that in the January/February 2020 African Violet Magazine, on page 19, a question was submitted. Question“Can leaf chimera plants change over time? I have seen plants of Harmony’s Little Stinker that look very different from each other.” The response was yes. That leaf chimeras can shift over time. In some ways but to a lesser impactful way, this happens with the blooms of chimera African violets. I posted about the bloom variation sometime ago. If interested click here.

Also not too long ago I had a small sucker of my Yukako mutate to form a plant with chimera leaves. It is not as symmetrical or as strikingly different as seen in Little Stinker but never the less they are chimera leaves. Click on any of the images to enlarge.

New Leaf Chimera African Violet Mutated From Yukako

Sport Of Yachiyo Tabata

I have been growing Yachiyo tabata for a while and it is generally a very stable chimera African violet, in that stem culture after stem culture I know the probability is very high that the plantlet that will be produced will be a representation of the parent plant. Below is a typical Yachito tabata. Some times it has six petals usually five.

What I find so interesting and appealing about these blooms is that every single bloom is different. Some have a pink and blue fantasy with few blue stripes, some have more and the patterns in each bloom on the same plant are different. Sort of like snowflakes. Each is different. The other day one of the plants I produced by a stem culture bloom surprised me in how it bloomed as is seen below.

Yachiyo tabata Sport

Note where the purple and pink fantasy colors occurred on the standard Yachiyo as compared to this one. Where it was pure white on the typical Yachiyo tabata we now have the purple and pink fantasy. And where that fantasy existed on the standard Yachiyo is now pure white. The patterns reverses position! I already put this stem into tissue culture and we will see what we can get from it. It should be noted on the flower stem that this bloom came from an initial bloom first appeared that was a mess. It looked a bit like this bloom and a bit like the standard. I put the plant on the side to discard. But before I could send it off to the mulch pile this bloom appeared. So I am not certain of the outcome but we will not know unless we try by culturing the stem and seeing what the blooms look like. We should have an outcome in about 9 months (August /September time frame).

Leaf Color Change In Humako Sweet and Neptune’s Jewels

Humako Sweet
Humako Sweet – Click to Enlarge Image

Back in July of this year, I had a number of Humako Sweet’s that I had grown from flower stem via tissue culture but they were not blooming and the dark green leaves were turning reddish. In some cases, the reddish color was giving away to almost a transparency of the leaf. See leaf A as compared to leaf B below.

Humako Sweet Leaves – Click to Enlarge Image

Plants were not wilting but growth appeared slow. There was no visible sign of a fungus or insect infestation or even its presence. My attention then turned to perhaps a virus infection. Was it the ” Impatiens necrotic spot virus” or for that matter one of the others that impact African violets? But the one odd thing that stood out was the leaf color change was only impacting two different plant varieties. The leaves of Humako Sweet as shown above and the leaves of my Neptune Jewels which are a lighter green leaf illustrated below. Leaf C is what all the leaves were changing to on the Neptune Jewels while Leaf D is the normal color.

Neptune’s Jewels Leaves – Click to Enlarge Image

What was happening? Do I submit leaves to viral analysis? All the other plants appeared fine, although I admit glowing slower than normal.

It just so happened that I attended a local Gesneriad meeting. There was a taped presentation from the National Gesneriad Society. About 3/4 through the presentation they showed a plant whose leaves were reddish and parts almost transparent while other leaves turned yellowish. The presenter noted that at first viral infestation was expected but that in reality, the true root cause was the temperature of the room it was growing in was very cool. At that moment it all came together!

I grow my plants in the basement of my house. It was July and it was hot outside and the air conditioning was running. The basement had the ductwork running through the ceiling of the basement and there were a number of vent openings that would cool the basement that was naturally on the cool side. I immediately purchased a thermometer and noted that the temperature in the evening would get down to between 16-18 degrees centigrade.

I closed the vents in the basement from the air conditioner, and within a few days temperature was in the 22-25 degree centigrade range and has been maintained in that range. All the red and yellow leaf color changes have stopped forming on the younger leaves (which are all green now) and remain green as the leaves mature. Only on the older leaves is the issue seen. But as the older leaves die off, evidence of the problem is disappearing. So I guess Humako Sweek and a Neptune Jewels are good indicator plants when the growing area is getting too cool. Their leaves turn colors like trees in autumn.