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Albinism [ Botany ]

Dictionary of botanic terminology - index of names

Noun  Albino
  • An albinos is a plant with white or cream coloured leaves or stems which lack chlorophyll and thus can't photosynthesize sugars.
  • The term albinos is also used to indicate a white form of a normally colored flower.

A Lobivia pentlandii (forma albina) grafted on a green Hylocereus undatus stock.

Echinofossulocactus sp.


Every once in a while a plant exhibit albinism. We can find albino seedlings, albino stems, albinos leaves etc. in many different plant species. While floral albinism is common in some species, less so in others, and commercially desirable in many cases.

Albino seedlings probably result from a genetic mutation. While albino stems or leaves are thought to develop from mutation in a single cell or in a group of cells, because the rest of the plant from which the albino stem grows can be normal.
As in animals, albinism in plants is caused by lack of pigment. However, Unless the plant is parasitic or saprophytic, leaf and stem albinism is generally a fatal trait (can't produce its own food and it's not getting it from anything else). Without chlorophyll, the albino plant has no way to manufacture the food needed for survival and growth to maturity.

Albino seedlings usually live only about a week, but albino stems tend toward a bit more longevity because they can draw food from the parent plant.
If the albino plant is growing from the stem of a normal plant, there may be transitional features at the juncture. For example a stem may show mixed albino and normal characteristics, beyond it various albino shoots grew.

Not all mutations or unusual gene combinations are harmful. In fact, by watching for favorable abnormalities it has been possible to develop new varieties of ornamental plants. But this plants connot survive on their own roots and necessitate to be grafted on a normal green plant that provide food. Some of this albinos plant are indeed very popular and sought after by plant collectors.


A form of partial albinism is variegation (green and white stripes). This is usually not fatal; it is usually commercially desirable.





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