TOTIPOTENCY! Begonia Petiole Leaf Cutting

January 18, 2024

What is Totipotency?

TOTIPOTENCY! Do you know what it is? 🌱

If you’ve taken any of my classes, or listened to me on podcasts, then you might know one of my favorite botanical vocabulary words is “totipotency”. This word refers to the potential of a cell (which may be limited or unlimited) to differentiate into tissues OTHER than what it is initially genetically programmed to do.

PC: Leslie F. Halleck

For example, the morphological form of a petiole cell, is, well, to grow a petiole! BUT in some species of plants (not all) petiole cells can have the genetic potential to differentiate into OTHER types of plant tissues (when wounded), such as new root shoots, bud shoots, and ultimately stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds!

Seeds are totipotent…meaning they contain all the genetic information to differentiate into ALL the plant tissues. Some cells are multipotent or pluripotent, meaning they can differentiate into a few or many different (but maybe not all) types of tissue in that species.

PC: Leslie F. Halleck

Begonias are Masters of Vegetative Cloning

...and you’ll find that the cells in the stems, petioles, AND leaves can all differentiate into all the types of tissues the plant needs to grow an entirely new clone specimen…from roots to seeds. But you can’t do this with every plant!

Learning Resources

You can learn all the how-tos of plant propagation (seeds to vegetative propagation) in my book “Plant Parenting”. And if you want to dig into this topic further, you can join my “Botany for Gardeners” course through UCLA Extension (its open registration, online, and registration opens February 5th 2024, class starts April 1! Same for my Indoor Plants Care and Maintenance course, which I’m teaching again in spring 2024.

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