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Weird rose buds? It's fascinating fasciation

Hormone imbalance and heat fluctuations linked to deformed flowers

Weird looking rose bud
This About Face grandiflora rose is displaying
fasciation in its spent bloom. (Photo: Debbie

They look like something out of “Little Shop of Horrors”: Weirdly distorted buds that sprout out of the center of a spent rose. And this summer, more seem to be popping up on rose bushes throughout Sacramento – as well as other plants.

It’s another garden oddity likely tied to extreme fluctuations in temperature: Fasciation.

This phenomenon – strange, unexpected growth of terminal buds – is a genetic mutation of a plant’s growing tip. It’s believed to be triggered by a hormone imbalance that may be caused by outside factors such as roller-coaster temperatures or exposure to herbicides (such as Roundup).

I can’t help it; I’m fascinated by fasciation. In roses, it looks like a whole spray of monstrous buds is trying to wiggle out of the center of a bloom – often before the first flower has dropped its petals.

I have one hybrid tea – Perfect Moment – that always seems to display some fasciation in the heat of summer (and it did). But this August, I’m also seeing fasciation on bushes that never showed it before. That includes About Face, a very tall grandiflora; this week, several of its spent blooms sprouted the weird deformed buds.

The roses were not exposed to Roundup or other chemicals; it had to be the heat.

The good news: It’s not contagious. Snip off the weird flower and the plant will (fingers crossed) grow a “normal” bud.

Fasciated sunflower bloom
Fasciation also can show up in sunflowers. This was a
bloom that exhibited some weird extra growth. (Photo: Kathy

According to experts, fasciation has been observed in more than 100 species. Some plants pass that trait on through their seeds. It’s most commonly seen in strawberries, foxgloves, delphiniums, cactuses, and succulents.

In strawberries, fasciation creates giant double or triple berries. The cockscomb celosia – with flowers that look like rooster heads – are a result of fasciation.

Heirloom tomatoes – particularly those with ugly bottoms – are believed to be another case of fasciation as a desirable trait.

Fasciation also can produce flat, fused stems or tufts of fused growth, often referred to as “witches’ broom.” Besides heat and herbicides, fasciation may be caused by bacteria, in particular Rhodococcus fascians , say UC master gardeners.

For more on fasciation:


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Garden Checklist for week of April 21

This week there’s plenty to keep gardeners busy. With no rain in the immediate forecast, remember to irrigate any new transplants.

* Weed, weed, weed! Get them before they flower and go to seed.

* April is the last chance to plant citrus trees such as dwarf orange, lemon and kumquat. These trees also look good in landscaping and provide fresh fruit in winter.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash.

* Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias.

* Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom.

* Mid to late April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce seedlings. Choose varieties that mature quickly such as loose leaf.

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