This year I have been fascinated by a case of fasciation.
In 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.
Fasciation is a phenomenon where growth that is usually relatively circular distorts and lengthens sideways. The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nature does give us some fascinating variations.