How to classify mutants

I ran across a plant on a walk that has mutant growth

There are a number of photos of the growth plus two of the plant below the growth (needle like leaves and small whitish flowers are normal growth).
It seems to me such aberrations are very important and there needs to be a method for researchers to easily harvest recorded examples. Is there a method in the system to do that.

NOTE: My plant classification skills are close to non-existent. So far I cannot get a lead on the host plant to classify it.

I can’t find tags to suit ‘mutation’, 'abberation, ‘virus’, ‘viral’, ‘abnormal’

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There is a Project to which you could add it:

Amazing Aberrants


Here’s a project someone made for some of my observations, and they’ve since found others like them.

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It would be good to have a label for “abnormal” or something like that.

In the meantime, you can post this twice. Once, leading with the normal growth, for the host plant. (Ask a question about the abnormality.) Also, consider this version posted for the abnormality. You might label that “rust fungi” – a similar growth on Vaccinium in Oregon is caused by rust fungi – and with any luck, you’ll get a plant pathologist screaming, “That’s no rust fungus! It’s a _______.”


Still a newbie and still learning. I’ll need to do some reading up on projects, how to find them and add references. Meanwhile,
Weird Wild Wonders, seems similar and somebody added a reference to the record.

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My experience is mostly silence when I mis-classify or simple correction with no comment.

The system compare option top choices were King Parrot and Lace Monitor. :grinning: I understand your point but was raised too honest to do that. As it is, unknown seemed the most suitable category to me.

Maybe ‘Abnormal’ needs to be selected by the person raising the record but confirmed by experts. For example, I’ve seen fish that are different to ‘normal’ but some searching through old indicates they are rare but rather than abnormal - minor genetic variation rather than a different species or a mutation.

But this project is for colour mutations and other causes of colour change, this is more of a structural change, like a result of pathogen and there should be projects for this.

It’s very helpful to duplicate observations like these where there are really two distinct organisms of interest, the plant and the deformation-causer. The example you showed looks like a witches broom deformation, which can be caused by fungi, bacteria, and a number of other organisms. It’s probably not caused by a spontaneous mutation.

I recommend Googling the name of the host plant and the phrase “witches broom” and seeing if anything at least sort of similar pops up. Then make a duplicate observation but with the causal agent as the identification. If it’s incorrect, it’s okay, it’ll be much more likely to attract the attention of someone knowledgeable about the plant pathogens on this host this way, instead of leaving it at a high level taxon identification, or worse, only making one observation (for the plant itself).


As others have mentioned already, it could be caused by a viral or fungal infection. You said you confirmed it was “mutant growth”, but I’m curious as to how you came to that conclusion?

As far as tagging something as a mutation, there’s Observation Fields for various tags. There’s already tags for “Color mutation” and “Fasciation”.


Two things - If there is a correction on the ID, you do have the option of asking the identifier what makes them change the ID. A good way to learn. Use @username to tag them.
Secondly, getting used to variation and disease/parasites is part of the learning process. I work mainly with moths, and some of them are highly variable. Only practice with identification has offered me the chance to pick up on ‘normal’ differences. And don’t be hesitant to follow @sedgequeen 's advice - it can be quite effective! Then add a thank you.

In some instances, what you are seeing may be fasciation and here are two links shared with me when I had a similar observation with some odd looking coyote brush:

There is also an observation field in iNat where you can add such irregularities:

Hope this helps.


Ah… I could not reAlly understand what the normal plant looked like, so I figured the brilliant color was the aberration🤷🏽‍♀️

Will do if I can find the name of the host. I know some but and a long way short of experienced.

I don’t think it’s specifically for color mutations. Pretty sure I’ve seen lots of observations with fasciation in there too

It’s written in the project description, it also was connected with a facebook group of some kind related to colour mutations.

Seems there’s some confusion here over the term “mutant”. From Wikipedia:

Mutants arise by mutations occurring in pre-existing genomes as a result of errors of DNA replication or errors of DNA repair.

That’s why I was wondering how you confirmed it was a mutation as opposed to a deformity caused by a virus, fungus or developmental abnormality. Going by the scientific definition, it’s unlikely this is a mutant.

Poor word choice. Tags should have given the idea that I was looking for something inclusive to cover substantial departures from ‘normal’ but not covering minor genetic variations such as colour.

Typing “abnormal” in Observation Fields, I see there’s at least four tags already. I added “Deformity/abnormality” to your observation.

Also, if there’s a tag that doesn’t exist, you can add it:

Also Fascinating fasciation

“I understand your point but was raised too honest to do that. As it is, unknown seemed the most suitable category to me.”

Two things. First, I know a rust fungus causes this “witch’s broom” growth in Vaccinium, so if I suggested “rust fungus” for your observation it would not be dishonest, though it might be wrong!

Second, many identifiers search for taxonomic groups they’re interested in. They won’t find observations labeled “unknown” when they search for “plants” or “fungi” or whatever. So applying a name, even if it’s wrong, is a good place to start. (Some identifiers will go through unknowns and apply a general name to get the identification process started. In difficult cases like yours, they probably have no more knowledge than you do, maybe less.)

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