Monday, April 27, 2009

Invasion of the Mutant Dandelions

As I was out and about for my Monday morning walk, I wondered what new thing I might see. One of the joys of getting yourself out of a car and moving at the slower and more deliberate pace that comes from using your legs is that you notice more. You're aware of the light and the heat. You're aware of changes in temperature and shade. And you see stuff when you're not so focused on steering with one hand and texting with the other.

This morning, the "stuff" came as I detoured through a small sun-drenched patch of grass about midway through my five mile hike.

The grass was smattered with dandelions, and walking through them I noticed that several of the little beggars were...well...strange. Their tops were denser and thicker with seeds, and their stems were much broader than any I'd ever seen and strangely flattened. Several clusters in one area all looked pretty much the same.

Once I got home, a bit of googling found that these were, in fact, mutants. They were exhibiting something called "fasciation," which is the term for a type of plant mutation that causes unusual, flattened growth patterns. Botanists are not quite sure what causes it.

Whatever it was that caused this particular mutation, it seemed to be thriving. Who knows? Maybe in five hundred years, most dandelions will look like this.

Learn something new every day.