One of my ficus developped an almost fully white branch with leaves.

I found about "starlight ficus" which are similar but have more green on their leaves and bark.

Is it common? What keywords can I search to read more about this?

all white ficus

  • what are the black bits on the all white leaves? I can't tell even under magnification? And is the plant indoors or outside?
    – Bamboo
    Jan 5 '19 at 23:57
  • @Bamboo the black tips are actually green. Same color as the all green leaves. The plant is inside.
    – lpasselin
    Jan 6 '19 at 16:07

Variegation is caused by chimerism, which is a genetic phenomena. It means an organism consists of cells with two different genotypes (different genetic makeups). With variegation, you'll have cells that can produce chlorophyll and are green, and you'll have mutated cells that cannot produce (or do not contain) the chlorophyll, and they appear to be white. For some reason (maybe an environmental cue) the white cells are dominant in your branches of interest. I had the same with also a Ficus benjamina, one branch had only white leaves. However, the branch died pretty soon. The problem is that these cells do not photosynthesize, and therefore the plant needs the green cells as well. The white cells do not make energy, so the mutation can only exist is combination with the green cells.


I can't tell whether the rogue growth is growing from somewhere you previously pruned back to old wood or not from the image, but either way, the cause is a genetic blip of some kind. It might have been triggered by cutting it back into old wood, if that's what you did, but it can just happen without any apparent cause. The leaves look healthy and it's obviously growing well, just that one area has predominantly creamy white leaves. If you were a professional grower, you'd probably try growing cuttings off the rogue growth to produce a new variety of Ficus benjamina for sale; many new varieties of plants are created this way, that is, a chance genetic mutation produces different growth, and the growers take advantage of it. Variegated plants often come about because of viral infection, though that can sometimes show itself in twisted or puckered leaves as well and isn't much use for creating new varieties.

  • I did a large cut less than a year ago and the rogue growth (great name!) comes from this cut. I am not a professionnal but I definitely indent to grow other trees from cuttings. I was just wondering if it was worth it. Thanks a lot for the information. Here is an album of this tree if you are interested. It was created from the fusion of many small cuttings. photos.app.goo.gl/tcYgX6JpeXg4AmJx2
    – lpasselin
    Jan 6 '19 at 22:26

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