Fascination

This year I have been fascinated by a case of fasciation.

Fasciated bud on Lythrum virgatumIn early June, as one of the Lythrum virgatum plants that I raised from seed rocketed skywards, this thick bud caught my eye among the other more slender buds; it struck me rather like a house-painting brush surrounded by delicate pointed watercolour brushes.

Budding stems of Lythrum virgatum in June

Fasciation is a phenomenon where growth that is usually relatively circular distorts and lengthens sideways. ┬áThe source of this relatively uncommon abnormal growth can be attributed to random genetic fluctuation or environmental causes: often damage or infection. It seldom recurs, except in plants that are particularly prone: Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’ has been bred to enhance and celebrate this condition.

Purple spires of Lythrum virgatum

I watched, intrigued, as the stem grew, curling and twisting alongside the straight slender stems around it; purple flowers freely opening along this thickened stem as well as those unaffected stems.

Fasciated flower stem of Lythrum virgatum

Bees and other pollinators seemed utterly unperturbed by this unusual form, showing no discrimination in their search for nectar: indeed the flowers were clustered much more densely here than their usual regular spacing.

Fasciated stem among lythrum virgatum

From a distance, while the plant was in full bloom, the clubbed stem was barely noticeable among the purple spires. It returned to prominence as the leaves dropped and colour bleached from the garden; when autumn turned to winter.

Fasciated winter stem of Lythrum virgatum

In December, the broad flattened stem is striking alongside the narrow cylindrical stems around it, with its rippling surface and blackened, curled end – almost claw-like in the winter sun.

Fasciated winter stem of Lythrum virgatum

Nature does give us some fascinating variations.

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21 thoughts on “Fascination

  1. This post has explained something I had been wondering about for a while. I have some branches on my Cherry tree that have produced flat twigs about two inches wide, rather than the usual cylindrical twigs. It must be the fasciation you describe.

  2. Amazing post! The world is full of things to be fascinated with! Looks like you found some and I am sure it brought much joy in your life! Now lets just hope others become fascinated by what is in nature! Great stuff! Thanks much for posting!

  3. It’s so good to celebrate nature in all its curious forms and good to have that particular eccentricity explained. I will now no doubt meet it in my herbaceous borders over the summer months.

  4. It is a strange phenomenon, thanks for describing it so well. My Euphorbia showed the same thing last year, so far it doesn’t seem to be repeating itself this year. A very happy New Year and I look forward to reading more about your garden in 2014

    • My pleasure – I found it intriguing. Wishing you a very happy New Year too, Christina, and I look forward to continuing to follow your own garden adventures as well!

  5. “Curiouser and curiouser” as Alice would say. I like the December version – reminds me of a chrysalis of some description. May the new year treat you and your garden kindly Sara.

    • How lovely – is it the form ‘Fascination’? I planted a Veronicastrum virginicum album here this year, and look forward to watching it in the years to come hopefully, added fasciation would be a bonus of course …

  6. Fascinating to watch the fasciation evolve, Sara – it will be interesting to see if it repeats itself next year, for which best wishes to you and yours.

    • Thank you. I think it tends to be less common on the Lythrum than on Forsythia, Veronicastrum or Euphorbia which are all more prone. An intriguing phenomenon in any form, though, and I’ve loved watching it.

  7. I remember coming across fasciation when I was at college but I have never actually seen it on a plant so it was great to see your images. Wishing you a fabulous New Year.

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