Something happened in my garden this spring that I have never seen before. In the midst of a group of pink tulips, I noticed two tulip flowers emerging from a single stem–twin tulips! On closer inspection, I saw that there were two stems; however, they were fused together from the ground up to the place where they split off and formed buds.
At first, I thought that two tulip bulbs had been planted very closely together, causing the stems to fuse. Of course, I didn’t want to dig them up to find out for sure! Further research led me to the possibility of fasciation.
The word “fasciate” means “bound with a band or fillet” or “abnormally enlarged and flattened, as some plant stems”. The origin of fasciate is from Latin fasciatus, past participle of fasciare, to swathe, wrap with bands; from fascia.
As I am neither a botanist nor a Latinist, I hope that errors in this post will be pointed out to me by those who are more expert in these fields (you know who you are).
Fasciation is a rare condition where the growth of a plant is concentrated in a single area. Fasciated plants develop flattened, elongated shoots; multiple stems that look like they have been fused together; or misshapen flower heads with numerous flowers. This weird phenomenon can occur in the stem, root, fruit or flower head.
I urge you to use Google images to see some amazing images of fasciation. My fasciated tulips (if they are indeed fasciated) are a pretty tame example of the phenomenon. I did come across a more specific reference to fasciation in tulips, in The Bulb Book by John Weathers, who notes: “In the case of the Tulip, there is usually only one flower on one stalk, but by fusion or fasciation, examples bearing as many as seven flowers have been met with–the stems being united part of the way, and then branching towards to top.” The image at left is from the book. Perhaps next year, there will be seven pink flowers on my tulip!