how and why do variegated plants sometimes revert and lose their variegation?


I’ve heard it happens different with different plants but I can’t begin to imagine how exactly it works. Can someone explain?

In: Earth Science

The variegation is often due to a viral infection that is deliberately introduced. I imagine if the plant overcame the viral infection it might regenerate its chloroplasts. It also seems pretty likely that new leaves and branches might not be infected, so they would come in green.

Plants contain chlorophyll, a green pigment that absorbs light that plants use in photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is found in the chloroplasts of plant cells, they are organelles (tiny organs) where photosynthesis takes place, and chloroplasts need the green pigment to absorb the energy needed for photosynthesis.

Variegation in plants means that certain areas where a plant is not green, it’s cells would be lacking chlorophyll. This results in a situation where if say if there are two of the same plant one is fully green while the second is variegated, the variegated plant may not be able to photosynthesize as quickly and in turn will not grow as fast as the fully green plant because it does not contain as much chlorophyll as the fully green plant. Only the green parts of leaves undergo photosynthesis.

A common loss of variegation in plants would be due to a lack of sunlight. If you have a variegated plant and it’s not getting the amount of light it needs, the plant might try to compensate for that by making fully green leaves so it can make up for the lack of light by having more surface area that can absorb it, because if there is a lack of light, the plant wants to absorb as much as it can possibly get.

Loss of variegation could also be because the plant is trying to deal with some sort of negative condition in it’s environment. It would want to absorb as much solar energy as it can to grow as big and strong as possible and hopefully overcome/live through the situation.