White areas in leaves are caused by an absence of the green pigment chlorophyll. Yellow variegation is caused by an absence of chlorophyll and the presence of other pigments. Variegation is caused by a cell mutation. Chlorophyll is used for photosynthesis (manufacture of food) and when there is an absence of chlorophyll less food is produced which means that typically a variegated plant is less robust than its green counterpart.

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