Positive Mutations Don’t happen – Really?
by Chris Barrett
I have been fascinated by the observation made here on AT that positive mutations don't happen.
Well, I have just had an amazing event happen in my pomegranate orchard. A few years ago I purchased 50 plants from a Nursery on the coast here in New South Wales, Australia. These plants were one year old, and about 30cm (12 inches high).
This year was our first season with most trees having a few fruit. When the flowers were setting we noticed one bush had a distinctly different colored flower. It was a paler color, and more orange than red. It was also slightly more rigid in the “petals”.
On Thursday last week I picked the two fruit that tree had produced. They were a different color skin to the others. A paler, more yellow color. When we cut one open we were surprised to see the seeds/fruit inside were also different. They were larger, pale pink to white in color.
The biggest surprise was when we tasted them. Sweet, soft, and almost no hardness to the seed inside. The sweetness was amazing. All the other trees produced fruit typical to pomegranates. Slightly tangy or tart with a crunchy little seed inside. (Which my wife spits out, and I chew)
I had said to my son several times during the season that I would not be surprised if this particular tree was a sport. I had had involvement with a Custard Apple variety (KJ Pink) which came from a sport, so knew about the possibility. For those who are not familiar with “sports” in the plant world here is an interesting example from apples:
“KIKU® is a red sport of Fuji. Sports are natural mutations which occasionally arise when a new shoot starts to grow from the main stem or branch of a tree. This happens in many types of plants, and can affect the blossom, leaves or fruit, which may look somewhat different on that branch from the rest of the tree. Apple growers favour sports which cause the fruit to be better coloured than the original variety, and the most famous sport is probably Red Delicious, a redder-colored mutation of the original Delicious apple. Sports usually differ only in visual appearance, and the flavour and growing characteristics are generally the same or very similar to the original variety.
Kiku was discovered in 1990 by Luis Braun, an Italian fruit grower who was touring an orchard of Fuji apples in Japan, and noticed a branch on one tree had different-looking apples. He went on to propagate examples in Italy and eventually created the KIKU® trademark.” source: https://www.orangepippin.com/apples/kiku
I have spoken with Graham Par at the nursery where I got my plants from and he confirmed that the cuttings all came from the same tree. He was sure I must have bought some plants from someplace else. I assured him I didn't.
To give you an idea how this fruit is superior I have placed some images below. Of course, this fruit may not be as “good” for you in other ways, but the flavor and eating quality is vastly superior.
Now. I realize this mutation is not a human. I also know some readers will tell me, or at least try to tell me, that there is no “new” genetic information so to speak. Of course, if I am to register or license this plant for rights to stop others from taking cuttings from it, the plant would need to undergo tests to ensure it is different. Many sports have undergone this test and passed, as I suspect this one would. This plant protection cannot happen unless there is new information in that plant.
I also note that the seeds in this fruit appear so soft that germination may not happen. I have not tested that out. Obviously in an evolutionary sense this mutation may the “the end of the line” if the seeds will not grow. Of course I will take cuttings, so it won't be the end of the road.
My personal view is that this is indeed a positive mutation. It is a great example of how change can happen. And I have now seen it with my own eyes!
This first image compares the two fruits with their respective seeds in front of each one.
The fruit on the left is a normal “Wonderful” variety. The right is the sport.
This image is a close up of the Wonderful seeds and their flesh.
This last image is the “new” fruit seeds.