Tomato Leaf Types
Part 4 of 6
This leaf type is my most favorite of all, and that’s because it can be so beautiful. The variegated leaf is one that has some known genetic findings as well as some mysteries left for us to discover. The main gene associated with variegated leaves is the albescent (alb) gene, which is another recessive type of gene, and the ghost (gh) gene, which is still in the discovery stages. Like the chartreuse/lutescent gene, the albescent and ghost genes also have some control over the amount of chlorophyll within the stems, leaves, and sepals. The difference here is that the albescent and ghost genes express the lack of chlorophyll in a streaking, flecked, or splattered type of pattern, interspersed with different percentages of chlorophyll (green). As mentioned above, not everything is known about this leaf coloring, but in most cases, the percentage of the white seems to decrease when exposed to higher temperatures and increase as the season cools back down again in the fall, especially in relation to the albescent gene.
In my own garden, I have witnessed that the fading effect also coincides with foliar feeding and/or granular fertilizers that contain magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. This has to do with cation exchange rates; magnesium and calcium, in particular, have an effect on chlorophyll mobility within the plant’s vascular system. If all goes well next season, I plan to perform my own controlled study with different fertilizer components to decipher how these might affect the variegation percentage. This will basically be a “for fun” experiment, but I hope to see results that align with my inclination.
There are just a handful of variegated varieties on the market today, but if you can find one, I urge you to try it—if not only for delicious fruit, then simply for the sheer factor of a beautiful plant. Some variegated varieties are Splash of Cream, Faelen’s First Snow, Potato Leaf Variegated, Karson’s First, and Painted Lady.
Please check back soon for the next article in this series!