In the fall of 2014 an extraordinary find was made. At the site of the world’s largest known periclinal chimeric albino redwood (Sac Tree), chimeric albino cones were discovered within it's canopy. Never before had redwood cones exhibited such clearly distinct phenotypic patterns of green and white. This is another first for the species which is remarkable. The discovery has excited researchers with the possibility of what propagation results could bring. If the seeds turned out to be viable, new morphological patterns may be discovered within the seedlings giving scientists new opportunities in studying these types of chlorophyll deficient mutations. The extreme rarity of the Sac Tree alone and it’s never seen before cones is a genetic treasure trove of information that hopefully will give researchers better insight on the species as a whole. The picture above shows a chimeric albino redwood cone containing two sets of DNA.
Within a week of the discovery, permission from the owner was obtained and a collection of cones from the tree was procured. Not only were chimeric cones found, but albino, and pale albino cones were discovered as well. Above is a small sampling of what was found. There are four chimeric redwood cones displaying both the normal green genotype and the white mutated genotype. This configuration where clear lines of delineation are seen on the cones themselves is extremely rare and only has been observed on this tree.
A sectorial chimeric branch producing green and white cones side by side
In the spring of 2015 ninety seedlings were successfully propagated off the Sac chimera albino redwood. Amazingly five seedlings started showing signs of variegation later that spring. As you can see from the pictures below, the seedlings turned out to be pale albino chimeras which was fascinating. This was the first time since 1976 that chimeric albino redwood seedlings had been successfully propagated and grown. Instead of a controlled cross-pollination experiment these results were from natural selection. Researchers hope as these seedlings grow that they will start yielding clues about the mysteries within chimeric albino redwoods.
Different shades of green give the telltale sign of chimeric variegation within this seedling.
As the pale chimeric seedlings got larger an interesting discovery was made. Some of the pale needles started dying back during periods of intense light. It appears that the pale mutation is more light sensitive compared to the normal green genotype. Why this occurs is subject to further study.