The pallida gene of A. majus encodes a product required for the synthesis of red flower pigment. We have shown that the unstable pallida(recurrens) mutation is due to the insertion of the Tam3 transposable element near the promoter of the gene. Imprecise excision of Tam3 alters pallida gene expression and generates new spatial patterns or different intensities of flower pigmentation. Distinct spatial patterns may also result from rearrangements induced by Tam3 that alter the relative position of the pallida gene. Changes in Tam3 structure or position result in new unstable phenotypes. These findings suggest that genes may be rendered genetically hypervariable as a consequence of transposable element insertion and excision.