Fasciation: A weird plant deformity

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

We occasionally have plants submitted to the lab with a weird plant deformity known as fasciation. Fasciation is a term that describes the abnormal fusion and flattening of plant organs, usually stems, resulting in ribbon-like, coiled and contorted tissue.

A stem from autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) was submitted with this abnormality. Autumn olive is an invasive large and spreading shrub with leaves that are bright green above and silvery-green below. Stems and twigs are silvery to golden-brown. The stem end submitted was flattened, ribbed and coiled.

Fasciation
Fasciation on Autumn olive.

Although rare, fasciation has been observed on many woody and non-woody plants. It is believed to be caused by some sort of genetic mutation in the meristematic tissue. Other causes of fasciation can include bacterial infections, insect injury, chemical exposure or physical injury. Distorted tissue can be pruned out and growth will often revert back to normal. Plants with fasciation should not be propagated, as progeny may inherit the mutant trait.

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