If you know the plants in your garden intimately and sometimes even if you don’t, every now and then you’ll notice something out of the ordinary. It might be subtle, but you know something’s not quite as it should be.

I’ve encountered a few things over the years that made me stop and take notice. Usually, they’re few and far between but this year, I saw several. It is 2020, after all, and I guess my garden wanted to get in on the weirdness.

The first thing I noticed was that one of my daylilies had extra petals. Most daylilies have three petals and three sepals to their blooms. The petals sit atop the sepals and are offset from each other so that the bloom appears to have six petals, evenly spaced. Mine had four of each.

Only one of the blooms on my plant had this characteristic, called polymerous, and though I’ve had the plant for years, this was the first time I’d noticed it doing this. In blooms like this, they also have an extra set of stamens, which have filaments and anthers, holding the pollen. This is different than being a double daylily.

The next strange thing was one of my zinnias that bloomed normally, and then it began forming another distinct and complete flower from the center of the first one, creating a double-decker look. This, too, is different than being a double flower form. Only one of the zinnias did this; all the rest were normal.

My latest find is a milkweed leaf that is bifurcated. The leaf has a single petiole (the stem part of the leaf), and the base of the leaf appears normal, but partway down, the midvein split and each side of the leaf continued growing.

Sometimes plants exhibit what’s called fasciation. This appears as a bloom with a center wider than usual in one direction and narrower in the other. You may have seen this on coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, daisies, and others. Sometimes the stem of the plant is also fasciated and looks flat and somewhat ridged, as if several stems were melded together.

Not all fasciation is undesirable nor is it a disease that can be transmitted to other blooms or plants. It’s a genetic mutation for which the cause isn’t exactly known. In most perennials, the occurrence will likely be a one-off, but it could appear again in subsequent years, usually in just one flower of the plant.

There are plants that consistently exhibit fasciation, such as the fantail willow. (Look for Salix udensis ‘Sekka’.) Florists covet these stems for using in their decorative arrangements. The shrub is well worth growing in spite of being relatively short-lived, as I discovered with one I grew several years ago.

A flower that’s actually cultivated as a fasciated form is Celosia (cockscomb), known for its wide, fan-shaped flowers. As far as anyone knows, this isn’t harmful to the plant and pollinators visit fasciated plants as much as non-fasciated varieties.

Fruits and vegetables can be affected, too. You’ve probably seen those large, wide strawberries. Fasciation is to blame.

I don’t know all the biological reasons why plants decide to be different, but I enjoy finding them. It’s like discovering a four-leaf clover in the yard. Maybe God knew I would need extra things to smile about in all the craziness of this year.

Read more about Kylee’s garden and nature by following her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kyleebaumle. Contact her at PauldingProgressGardener@gmail.com.