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Study Reveals Van Gogh’s Sunflowers Were Mutants

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Scientists at the University of Georgia have genetically mapped Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflower series and found them to be mutant variants of normal sunflowers.

In van Gogh’s most famous works made more than a century ago, his sunflowers have a distinct feature—overlapping rows of supple yellow petals at the center of the sunflowers’ heads—thus earning them the name ‘double-flowered sunflowers’.

The genetics team crossed the common wild ‘single’ variety of sunflower with the double-flowered variety and identified a dominant gene responsible for creating the double-flowered mutation.

This same gene was then found to be present in sunflowers that carry van Gogh’s plant characteristics, as presented in the 29 March issue of PLoS Genetics.


According to Dr John Burke, the evidence “tells us that the mutation we've identified is the same one that van Gogh captured in the 1800s.”

“In addition to being of interest from a historical perspective, this finding gives us insight into the molecular basis of an economically important trait,” he added.

“You often see ornamental varieties similar to the ones van Gogh painted growing in people's gardens or used for cut flowers, and there is a major market for them.”

A typical sunflower is on the left, a double-flowered variety in the middle and a tubular mutant in the third box. Arrows point out double-flowered mutants in van Gogh's painting.

[via Daily Mail]
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