MadSci Network: Botany

Re: Will sucessive plant clones show genetic degradation?

Date: Thu Nov 8 00:07:40 2001
Posted By: David Hershey, Faculty, Botany, NA
Area of science: Botany
ID: 1005191948.Bt

Apparently not if some discretion is used and any obviously inferior plants 
that occasionally appear in the cloned population due to mutation are rogued 
out. In fact, some clones, such as 'Red Delicious' apple will occasionally 
produce mutant branches (called sporting) that can give rise to new and 
superior cultivars. 

Many fruit tree, rose, and flower bulb clones are well over 100 years old. I'm 
not sure which plant is the oldest clone in cultivation. Several fruit 
cultivars from the 1600s still exist. The 'Barlett' pear is said to have 
originated in 1765 under the name 'Williams' Bon Chretien' but some think that 
the 'Barlett' pear may have even originated before 1600.  Tulips 'Zomerschoon' 
and 'Duc van Tol' supposedly date back to 1620. 

According to Guinness Book of World Records, the oldest wild plant clone is the 
triploid kings lomatia or kings holly (Lomatia tasmanica) at 43,600 years. It 
is not known for sure if the plant has remained genetically identical all those 
years but a 43,600 year old fossil leaf appears identical to living specimens. 
Quaking aspen clones are thought have survived over one million years (Mitton 
and Grant, 1996). 


Apple Sports

Concerning Trees and their Fruit


Tulips 'Zomerschoon' and 'Duc van Tol'

Kings lomatia (Lomatia tasmanica)

Mitton, J.B. and Grant, M.C. 1996. Genetic variation and natural history of 
quaking aspen. BioScience 46:25-31.

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