Mutation Experiments 2008

Louisville, KY

This year I have around 2000 seeds of a few different tropical plants. I have been reading on mutagens and ways to cause mutations. I have put the seeds in different sections to be treated differently to see which experiments works best. This work is not being done in a lab but in the house and most can be done right in the kitchen. The idea of these experiments is to damage or break genes. This will usually cause slight mutations such as white variegated leaves streaked flowers and a whole range of other possibilities. If trying these experiments I would keep in mind that many seeds will not survive the treatments. While others are not completely known it is always good to use extra seeds in the experiments till a certain method is shown that will yield results.

#1 Microwave treatment. I have found little info on micro waving seeds. Most indicate their is little to no reaction. The seeds are treated with 3 to 5 seconds of microwaves at a time. Then allowed to cool down. I have been putting some seeds in 10 to 20 times. I am surprised their is little info on this subject due to it being so easy to test.

#2 Extreme conditions. I read a article on this sometime ago. It is hard to figure out what is best for each seed. The idea is to put the seed in extreme cold then extreme heat of course some seeds are stronger than others. I put my seeds in the freezer for 20 minutes, half were then thrown into hot water the others were microwave for 7 seconds.

#3 Electrical shock. I have read very little on this. The idea is to shock the seed just enough to cause disruption in the genes. I used several techniques. I have no idea if any will work sense my seeds do not conduct any electricity and I used low watts. One trick is to wrap the seeds in aluminum foil and microwave. You will then get electrical charges. Another technique is to shock the seeds with a low dose taser. Once again who knows if this will work no one seems to have research papers on the subject.

#4 UV-B rays. UV rays are known to cause mutations in plants. I bought the most powerful UV light used for sterilization. The way this works is the UV rays specially those on the far end of the spectrum, which are invisible to the eye are used. These are the same rays that cause skin cancer and other health related problem if exposed for long periods of time. This breaks or knocks out genes causing mutations.

#5 Magnetic fields. This one is fairly easy. You take your seeds and expose them to magnetic fields which in theory are said to cause some mutations. I basically used powerful magnets and have place seeds between the to magnets. The article I read on this experiment said little to no mutations. I had the magnets handy so figured it was worth a shot.

Other experiments. Their are many other ways to cause mutations in plants. Currently being used by labs around the world are Gamma rays, X-rays, most or any form of radiation. The other ways to cause mutations are certain chemicals and gases. I usually stay away for many of these methods due to budget and safety.

Is anyone trying or have tried similar mutation experiments? It would be interesting to hear from other mad scientist on this subject.

Port Orchard, WA(Zone 8a)

bwilliams, I would be interested in the protocol for turning diploid to tetraploid in Hostas. I know the Phyto-Teck, and Caisson. have the chemicals to use, like Colchicum ( toxic ), and other ones that are non-toxic. but I haven't seen the protocol for doing it. Jim

Tuscaloosa, AL(Zone 7b)


I can hardly wait to hear how this turns out. In the meantime, you get my vote for Mad Scientist of the Week.


Hammond, LA(Zone 8b)

Why can't I get "Little Shop of Horrors" out of my head! I Can't wait to see what you have for trade next year BW!

Oro Valley, AZ(Zone 9a)

Hi bwilliams and others,

1.) I have never tried, but have heard of a couple of people who (hybridize irises) currently are running experiments using the microwave and UV lighting. They are testing these both on fresh seeds and on the pollen itself (just before they use that pollen in a cross). If my memory serves me well - - the results should come about in 2 years.

2.) "Round-up" if sprayed near irises (where a whiff of wind causes the chemical to lightly fall upon the foliage) will cause the upcoming blooms to be both (usually) deformed and create a lack of color - white (either partially or totally). If the color is partially destroyed, then many times a unique or unusual pattern of white and it's usual color will also appear on that particular bloom. The drawback is: the following year (when a new set of rhizomes have emerged) the iris plant will once again (revert back to) flowering normally without any defect in it's original pattern or color for that particular variety. I'm wondering if that could be tested on fresh seeds or on seedlings just as they are emerging from the seed.

3.)Occasionally, for no apparent reason, nature will sometimes produce for us a very desirable mutation. This mutation remains constant year after year proving that it has had a genetic "make-over" (with no help from us). Sometimes it's slight, sometimes it's major. What would nature do to the embryo as it was forming (besides the use of temperature changes) - that would cause this seedling to result in a new desirable (or less desirable) plant ?


Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)


Somaclonal variation is a tissue culture technique for inducing mutations in plants.
This Google search link contains many references to the subject.


Louisville, KY

Maineman I have seen mutations in TC but have not heard of them personally causing the mutations. It would seed like a very good way to induce some mutations. I have seen were caladiums were tissue cultured and over time of not going back to the original stock new forms were created some were very interesting while others were just ugly. I am currently helping and talking to a lady who is trying to fuse the meristems of two plants in TC. The results could be amazing if takes.

As for polyploid conversion. It is one of the few ways to add to a plant rather than subtract. In most of the experiments above the mutation is caused by damaging the genes which usually show as variegation streaking in flowers and other odd traits. When you do polyploid conversion your adding genes or doubling genes in the plants giving them more information to work with. This is how you get larger flowers thicker leaves and other traits.

South Hamilton, MA

One person in Maine while trying to convert dip. siberians to tet. had accidently put too much chemical addition (I do not know what) had to do with weed killer and now has a tet. plant in that location. Different from Margie's notation, but I have heard of her description. The other thing with using too much Roundup in a bed, later growth is stunted for some time.

Mesilla Park, NM

I've done some things here, don't know that any mutated but have had the strangest blooms on almost 98 % of all the morning glory seedling I've started last year. Each one had a reversed tube. I'll post a photo of one example. I am trying to isolate my mixes of fertilizers to see which one is causing this, they look great, but I am finally able to see what is happening and doing a growout with separate mediums, fertilizers and habits. This year, one of the very first blooms already has shown the reversed tube.

This is exciting to me anyway..

Thumbnail by Gourd
Port Orchard, WA(Zone 8a)

Gourd, are you using Preen on any of your plant material? the active ingredient can cause mutations, I believe. just a hunch, on my part. Jim

Mesilla Park, NM

No, I don't use Preen, I don't use any chemicals at all., only ferts, such as fish emulsion, kelp and such, and this year started to use some messenger mists on the leaves.

Port Orchard, WA(Zone 8a)

Gourd, well, okay, it was an idea. lets see, messenger has Harpin in it. but it stimulates natural defense of the plant. I'd be curious to see what happens next year, then. I'm a Hybridizer of Hostas. I have to watch seedlings for several years to be sure they're stable. ( leaf shape, color, mature size ) . before I can make a judgement. Jim

Mesilla Park, NM

I'm smack in the middle of pecan orchards and alfalfa fields, the university here is an agricultural one and was wondering now, if they spray something. Sometimes they plant cotton, then rotate to onions, lettuce, cabbage, chili, etc..

But then, I start all the seedlings inside on heatmats in the winter, so they aren't even outside, it does get windy as all heck, so the wind can carry something in thru the vents.. I know this one is very far fetched, but, tomatoes like their leaves rattled/moved it stimulates something.... well, the train runs directly in front of my house, maybe 200 feet away if that, and of course the whole house trembles when it passes, it also HONKS right in front too, would noise and shaking of the roots cause anything like that..

I am thinking about getting a hold of someone at the university here and have them take a look at my MGs.

Port Orchard, WA(Zone 8a)

Gourd, is there any crop dusting that might carry over to your place? other than that, I would say give it some time and see if they contunue to do that. next year. Jim

Mesilla Park, NM

I just got another one this morning with a reversed tube, they look pretty neat.. it isn't open all the way, and it is also a cross.. I'll post a photo later on.

Mesilla Park, NM

p.s. I haven't seen any crop dusting here at all, but I'll find out for sure after I get with some of the farmers here.

Mesilla Park, NM

Here is Platycodon Pale Blue "Count Dracula" morning shot, these are from seeds out of the 2nd generation growout, which would make this an F2 I think. I don't know if the gene was carried over or what.. but the very first growout had reversed tubes also. The petals are not quite open yet. It was in the 40's last night and several of the mgs were a little wilted this morning, don't know if the cold had had an impact either on the spliting of the petals.

Thumbnail by Gourd
Mesilla Park, NM

Here is the photo from a few minutes ago, all the petals are open in this one and the color has faded/paled which is normal for this particular platycodon.

Thumbnail by Gourd
Mesilla Park, NM

Count Dracula looks like this without a reversed tube. Photo from last season.

Thumbnail by Gourd
Port Orchard, WA(Zone 8a)

Gourd, those look really nice!!! would those be hardy in my area? Jim

Waynesboro, MS(Zone 8a)

Gourd you wouldn't happen to be downwind of the Los Alamos Proving Ground or the site of the UFO crash LOL.

Mesilla Park, NM

Jim, I've not grown any of these in the ground ever, and I have them in a tent, they are short annual mg vines and I grow them in 3 gallon pots, they reach only about 5-7 feet if that. Also, they are those hobbyist Platycodon MGs..they grow slow and stay small, I grow them inside during the Jan-mid-April until they go outside end of April. They are not cold hardy, but I guess I should try some.. They are very picky and some of them get wilt as soon as they get cold. I have them in a Tent (those pop-up with the walls that zip, and they just went out of the house this past week), they have been inside since end of Feb. I put lit candles to keep the tent warm last night and only one got wilt. So, I think if you start them outside in May, they should be alright as long as the nights are warm also. Let me know if you want to try a couple of seeds. (I nick and soak all the mg seeds in water w/superthrive/h2o overnight, use heatmats, dome, and lights.


hahahaha!! I wish I was close, Los Alamos is about 5 hours or more from here and Roswell is not too far... I've often wondered all the magnetic forces out there!.. Those winds are horrible, but the Tent is really helping with that. Now if it would just stay above 50 at night, It should work out.

Brussels, Belgium

In reference to the fusing.... Have you tried to simply graft two nodes together from different plants? The result could be a chimera or you could simply take the tissue from the graft site and dice it up and plate it out on your culture media. Either way, the tissue has already grown together from the two sources and it would be a matter of simply growing the tissue into plants... seeing as you already have the tissue culture set up.... Just food for thought....

Seale, AL(Zone 8b)

Was looking over threads and foudn this one.

had a friend whose children decided to microwave the daylily seeds to see what would happen to them, but wil be awhile before they bloom.

There are a couple of other ways to try and mutate the genes.

If ya have a friend who works at a hospital that has an xray machine, or are willign to pay for an xray at one of these small emergency care palces, you cna ask them to to xray your seeds.

Also, if you have somebody at a local college that has an area where they can treat stuff with radiation, you might talk to the head of the department and ask if you cna have your seeds exposed.

Mapleton, MN(Zone 4b)

Sorry if this message is too outdated for this thread, but... One way to induce mutations is with the use of colchicine, it typically results in doubling the number of chromosomes, though it may kill the plant material. For more info search on Google, or look under the botanical uses portion of the colchicine wikipedia page. It may not be an easy chemical to obtain, but it has been used extensively by plant breeders, one example is seedless triploid watermelons (created by doubling a diploid (2x) watermelon and then crossing the tetraploid (4x) and diploid (2x) to produce triploid (3x) offspring).

Port Orchard, WA(Zone 8a)

mgguy, I think Phytotech or Chaisson still sell it. but there's others that are less hazardous. like surflan, oryzalin. you don't have to wear a body suit to use them. Jim

Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

You don't have to wear a body suit to use Colchicine. It occurs naturally in the Fall Crocus, and has been used as a prescription drug. However, it should be treated as a poison, as should surflan and oryzalin.


Port Orchard, WA(Zone 8a)

ZM, I have gotten that advise from some very reputable people on the hometissueculture forum at yahoo groups . if you get some be careful with it, good luck, Jim

Waynesboro, MS(Zone 8a)

Where these chemicals are extremely dangerous is when DMSO [dimethal sulfuroxide] is used to transport the chemical through the plants cell walls.If spilled on the body it can readily be absorbed thus poisoning the body.or causing cancer.

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