Variegation within the leaves of pea plants is defined as the discoloration of plant tissue caused by the lack of chlorophyll production within the plant. This is a natural development for many pea plants in their growth. Although often aesthetically pleasing to the human eye, the lack of chlorophyll within the plant means it is making less food and is more susceptible to all forms of disease and drought.
Variegation within a plant's leaves has been both noted and studied for the last 2000 years, as early as 23 A.D. according to the book "The Botanical Review," by Michael Evenari. With technology's recent advances, scientists have been able to gather more information on variegation than at any other time in human history. Usually variegation is not the sign of a pea plant's malcontent, but instead is a natural plant development.
Variegation within the leaves and stems of pea plants is typical. Stripes of yellow and white colors can usually be seen spread throughout the plant. These plants are often prized for their unique colors and are cared for so that their coloration lasts for as long as possible. This never lasts for more than one season at a time.
The highlighted color of garden plant's variegation is often used as colorful ornaments around the home or garden. They can add a level of light to darker areas that are dominated by green-leaved plants. Before moving plants to suit the garden's design, gardeners should know that variegation does not last long in pea plants.
Due to the low levels of chlorophyll within the plant, variegated plants are much more prone to attacks from disease, insect threats and drought. Yet, the majority of plants will revert to their original green coloration if there are no other factors preventing such natural developments.
Chimera Pea Plant
Tony Avent explains in his book "Leaves that Light Up the Garden -- Variegated Plants," that variegated pea plants are also known as chimera pea plants. Variegation is caused by a small genetic oddity that a majority of pea plants share. Gardeners should learn the difference between variegated leaves and disease symptoms to prevent the accidental destruction of healthy plants.