Vegetative reproduction, or vegetative propagation, can occur through tubers, stems, stolons and bulbs. Some plants, such as the Irish potato (Solanum tuberosum), reproduce only through tubers while certain species of flowering plants, vines and aquatic plants use more than one method to copy themselves. Propagation via tubers is an effective way to produce multiple plants from a single tuber, but it has some drawbacks.
Vegetative reproduction is a type of asexual reproduction in which only one parent is needed to reproduce. This method allows propagation to take place more rapidly than other methods, and multiple plants can be grown from a single tuber. Each new plant is a clone of the parent plant. So desired plant traits as well as undesirable features and diseases are transmitted from the parent plant. Viruses are known to be problematic in tuber vegetative reproduction, but steps can be taken to minimize them.
Irish potato is the most common plant to reproduce via tubers. Tubers are produced by cutting a potato into many pieces, with each piece containing at least one bud or “eye.” When the pieces are planted, the eye sprouts leaves. Photosynthesis produces nutrients that are sent underground into forming tubers, where they are stored. Over time, the tubers enlarge and become potatoes. Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) undergoes vegetative reproduction similarly to Irish potato and grows as a perennial plant in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zones 5 through 8.
Tuberous begonia (Begonia x tuberhybrida), hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11, is one type of flowering plant with tuberous roots. Those roots are not as enlarged as potatoes but can be used to propagate the plant by cutting them into several pieces, with each piece containing at least one eye. Tuberous begonia also can be reproduced through stem cuttings. Though not native to North America, the plant is not considered invasive.
Hydrilla, or water thyme (Hydrilla verticillata), is an aquatic plant that imbeds its tubers in bottom sediments, where they replicate under the surface. Hydrilla is another example of how the rapid propagation of vegetative reproduction can turn a species into a nuisance. The plant dies back when air and water temperatures fall below 59 degrees Fahrenheit but grows prolifically when temperatures rise above that level. It can choke any freshwater lake or river. Hydrilla is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 11.
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Growing Potatoes at Home
- National Gardening Association: Reproduction of Tuberous Begonias
- University of Florida IFAS Extension, Center for Invasive and Aquatic Plants: Air Potato
- California Invasive Plant Council: Invasive Plants of California's Wildland: Hydrilla Verticillata
- University of California Integrated Pest Management Online: Management Guidelines for Viruses and Viroid Diseases on Floriculture and Ornamental Nurseries
- OnlinePlantGuide.com: Helianthus Tuberosus/Jerusalem Artichoke
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Nursery Manual for Native Plants, Vol. 1
- Biology Online: Vegetative Reproduction - Definition
- University of California Museum of Paleontology: Asexual Reproduction
- OnlinePlantGuide.com: Dioscorea Batata -- Air Potato Vine
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