Outside of our apartment/house, there are a number of lovely old trees. Our house was built sometime in the late 1890s, and many of the trees around are just as old. We have massive oaks, maples, and cottonwoods providing delicious summer shade.
My favorite tree, however, is much younger. It's a curious tree, and before I had looked closely I thought it was perhaps more than one tree.
It certainly looks curious, doesn't it? The dark parts, the light parts. I must have edited the photo, right?
Nope, that's just the way that tree looks. I don't know if the tree has always looked that way, but it has definitely had this phenotype since it leafed out this spring. Once I took a closer look, some wheels started turning in my head.
Those white and green leaves have quite a distinctive pattern. And they remind me of an activity I did in genetics this past semester. We raised up plants with both mutant and normal chloroplasts. Chloroplasts are an organelle within the cell of a plant (a little piece that does something but can't live on its own). Normally, chloroplasts have a lot of green chlorophyll inside, and that green chlorophyll performs photosynthesis for the plant. This is how the plant gets its energy.
However, in some plants, there are mutant white chloroplasts instead. They don't work as well, so the plant doesn't get as much energy. If there are just white chloroplasts in the plant, the plant stays white because there's not much the plant can do. But if there are both green and white chloroplasts, the plant might stay variegated, or the green only leaves might out-compete the variegated leaves.
I don't know what will happen here to my variegated maple. There certainly are variegated and green-only leaves on the same branch.
Only observation and time will tell. Amazing what you can see when you open your eyes, look around, and truly watch the world.