Comments on Journal Article
I am urged to comment on a recent article written in the Hosta Journal
Vol.30.1 by Associate Professor Ben Zonneveld in which he tries to
develop a rationale for his theory for the causes for sports. While the
causes for sports might normally interest only other Geneticists, I
article so faulty that a response seems appropriate to correct some
He raises questions...Are they really identical or only similar? Should
they have different names if they are only similar? If they are
identical, could they have a single name? He hopes to answer these
questions by focusing on justification of names by discussing his
theory that there are three causes for hosta sports, i.e. (1) mitotic
recombination, (2) chimeral rearrangement and (3) mutations. He states
that "for our purposes we will treat mitotic recombination and
mutations as processes that mainly take place in the DNA of nucleus and
not in the DNA present in the other organelles of the cell" , (the
plastids, for example).
The faults I find in the article is that it is self-serving, it is
biased, it is incomplete and it is in error in many repects. There is
literary review to discuss the work and views of other workers in this
field. It does not discuss the histological basis for chimeras, the
"tunica-corpus" organization of cell layers in the meristem( after
Schmidt 1924), nor the identification of the two-three layer apices
common in monocots according to Stewart and Dermen (1979). He ignores
need for discussing "apical initials" within each apical layer of the
meristem. He does not discuss the fact that when cells from an inner
layer (L2 , for example) which take over the position of cells from
outer layer, "displacement" occurs, while "replacement" occurs when a
periclinal division of a cell occurs (parallel to the perimeter)
allowing for layer switching (per Stewart and Dermen 1970).
He does not mention the work of Dr. Michael Marcotrigiano, world
authority on chimeras and Associate Professor of the Dept. of Plant
Science, Univ. of Mass., Amherst, who explains how plastid mutations
leads to variegation because of the growth and distribution of
heteroplastidic cells. Marcotrigiano states that "the most common
of chimeral variegation is spontaneous mutation in the pathway of
chlorophyll synthesis or plastid morphology. These mutations are
generally chloroplast mutations rather than nuclear mutations".
Marcotrigiano then explains the genetic rationale for these
Ben does not discuss the distribution and sorting out of mutated
plastids in cells, as described by Vaughn in Hosta Bulletins 11 and 13
in the early 1980's. Nor does he discuss plastid mutations that often
take place during various stages of embryogenesis according to
Thus, the background of cytoplasmic and nuclear genetic factors are not
covered to explain their role in chimeras. His theory is contrary to
views of classical research workers in this field (Schmidt,
Stewart and Dermen, Tilney-Bassett, Vaughn and Marcotrigiano). So, who
do you think I prefer to believe?
The author states "that for our purposes, we will not consider DNA
changes in the organelles of cells(the plastids). This statement seems
suspect and inappropriate in a scientific discussion. Is it not the
purpose of a scientific inquiry to look at all causes of phenomena
under study? If the purpose is to consider only the author's views and
theories, is not the discussion slanted, biased and incomplete at the
outset?. Why has not Ben reviewed the scientific literature? Why has he
not mentioned Vaughn's work on plastid mutations and cytoplasmic
inheritance? Perhaps he has not studied the background adequately and
does not know about it?
If Ben does not wish to discuss plastid mutations because he considers
them insignificant, where is his proof that they are insignificant.
Marcotrigiano thinks they are very significant. A true scientist does
not hide from the truth or avoid the truth. He tells what others have
done and tries to build upon their work. A true scientist is precise in
the use of terms, his discriptions, his facts and the accuracy of his
statements. When he makes mistakes, he admits them and corrects them as
soon as possible.
If the purpose of Ben's article was to inform readers of the
scientific facts by use of his theory, I must say I find his arguments
incomplete, in error on several occasions, biased and non-convincing.
It makes the assumptions that all chimeral rearrangement (tissue
transfers) are identical, which they are not. The article is not based
on adequate knowledge of hostas. For example , Ben claims on page 58
that H.'June' and H. 'Paradise Joyce' look alike at first but they will
look different later because one is viridescent and the other is
albescent. After emerging in my garden, H.'June' has a yellow center
green edge (color code 14,2) while H. 'Paradise Joyce' has a green
center and dark green edge on May 22 (color code 4,2 on the color
My observation is that non-sexual propagation is not the same as
propagation from seed, contrary to Ben's text. Has he redefined terms
and not discussed it with us?...And there are 5 green vegetative sports
H. 'Halcyon', not four. These five were published in January 1997 and
included H. 'Grundspect' but should not have included H.'Kryptonite'
which has been corrected to show that it is a sport of H. 'Blue
Wedgwood'. And they are most likely the same plant derived from tc but
named by five different people.
Mistakes, if not corrected, destroy the credibility of a researcher.
Ben claims to have only 60 different hostas in his small garden with
only 3 years of experience. Perhaps he needs more time and hands-on
experience before establishing new theories on sports and writing
lengthy scientific discussion full of errors and omissions.
I wonder who reviewed Ben's article for accuracy? Was there a peer
review committee as there was for "Those Blasted Plastids"? If this
article with its weak, incomplete theories is published and read by
hosta gardening readers who accept it as gospel, we are doing a
disservice to those who may want to learn the truth about hosta sports.
Professor Zonneveld is being allowed to teach, write about and
bad science. Who is promoting and encouraging Ben to write 10 pages of
bad science in one issue of the Hosta Journal? Where is our sense of
proportionality? I am for science but not for bad science. I suggest
that in the future that a complex phenomenon such as chimeras can not
adequately explained in one simplistic theory.
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