Fascinating fasciation

At first glance from the top, it looks like a giant, well-camouflaged, stinging caterpillar feasting on an Euphorbia pulvinata (Prickly-leaved cushion euphorbia.). But when you look closer at this succulent that grows on a rocky outcrop on Mountainlands Nature Reserve, you will see it is the Euphorbia itself displaying an odd growth as if Mother Nature was having a bit of fun. This is called fasciation also known as cresting.

Fasciation is an abnormal growth condition that may occur in the growing tips such as the flower head, fruit, root or stem of a plant. Any number of causes may trigger fasciation and it includes hormonal imbalances, genetic mutations, fungal, bacterial or viral infections or damage caused by insects or animals. Fasciation is relatively rare but has been observed in over 100 plant species. Some plants are prized because they develop fasciation and are selectively propagated to display this marvellous ability.

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