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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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