Selfheal phenotypes

I have mentioned phenotypes before. In biology they are the characteristic traits expressed by a species and are generally thought to be an interaction between genes and the environment. It can seem a bit complicated.

Here is an example of two selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) phenotypes. Both have been raised from seed here at Reading University. One comes from a wildflower seed company and is the generic selfheal they provide – it’s the taller plant on the right. A taller plant like this does best in meadow type environments. It also is easier for seed companies to harvest from.

The one on the left is from seed collected from a lawn that has seen regular mowing for over 20 years. The environment (a regularly mown turf lawn) has influenced the genes that are successfully expressed by the selfheal. A shorter and more compact form of selfheal is the result.

This compact form is widely found in most old lawns across the UK, but I don’t know of any seed company that offers compact lawn selfheal as wildflower seed – yet. It is not as easy to harvest seed from this form and there has not been any specific demand for it – until now.

If you want to successfully include selfheal in your own grass-free lawn, you might want to think about collecting your own seed first.

Two Prunella vulgaris phenotypes

Two Prunella vulgaris phenotypes

As you can see, I think this is all rather amusing!

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