Taber Azalea – Flower Chimera
Q: We were out in the yard this weekend and I noticed a few dark pink flowers on my otherwise light-pink azalea. Then we looked closer and noticed a flower that is half light pink and half dark pink. This bush is about 8 years old and we’ve never noticed this before. What might have caused it?
A: It’s a botanical phenomenon called a chimera.
Basically, the bud that produced the flower had a mutation in its cells, causing those cells to grow but not produce chlorophyll. Many common variegated plants originally came from leaf chimeras: variegated dogwood, variegated vinca vine, ‘Burgundy Glow’ ajuga, variegated hosta, variegated hydrangea etc.
I can see that the chimera is on a ‘G. L. Taber’ azalea. This azalea is well known to produce different colored flowers, including the all-white ‘G. G. Gerbing’.
Some variegated plants are attractive and are propagated by growers and sold at nurseries. Others have leaves that are so lacking in chlorophyll that the plant never prospers.
Keep an eye on your azalea to see if reliably produces a chimera in years to come.