Sunday, June 3, 2018

Sunday extra: catnip

As you know if you've been here a while, I grow catnip outside for my cat.

Now, catnip grows pairs of leaves along a stem; those pairs then eventually become branching points for arms, which then again grow leaves along them in pairs again. They then branch as well, and so on a few times. And each subsidiary branch, as far as I can tell, then builds its own separate pipe down the main branch to the root bundle below. But everything works in pair symmetry in a typical catnip plant.

Anyway, a few times I've had a mutant catnip, which grows leaves in triplets instead of pairs. The first time, it essentially had no root system, so the structural gene that got transposed to produce triplets must have overwritten the root structure gene.

The second three-leaf catnip plant lived a bit longer, but never grew tall.

But this year:

The plant in the centre is a three-leaf catnip, and it's about the same size as the non-mutant catnip plants around it.

I'll be interested in seeing if it flowers, and if so I might collect all the seeds. Though all my plants this year have just sprouted in the ground without my help from the previous year's seed scatter, thanks to the sunny and wet spring we've had.

But it's neat to see how unstable the structural part of a plant's genetic library is.

As an aside, far to the right of this picture there's what seems to be a mutant mint plant: it's a lighter shade of green, and the leaves are rounder, and it smells of lemon instead of mint. I doubt it's hybridized: it's probably just a devolved mutant mint, because the seed packet I grew it from was crap.

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