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Hybridization among sympatric species of Rhododendron (Ericaceae) in Turkey: Morphological and molecular evidence

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Kirsten Wolff


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Rhododendron (Ericaceae) is a large genus in which barriers to hybridization are especially weak, but many species are maintained in sympatry. Hybridization among four species of Rhododendron subsect. Pontica, which occur in sympatry in Turkey, was investigated. Material of R. ponticum, R. smirnovii, R. ungernii, and R. caucasicum and their putative hybrids was collected from the wild. Based on morphology, chloroplast DNA and nuclear ribosomal DNA restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) profiles, each accession was identified as a species or hybrid combination. Five of the six possible hybrid combinations among the four species were detected. Rhododendron ponticum x R. smirnovii was represented by a single individual and R. caucasicum x R. smirnovii by one small group of hybrid plants. The combinations R. ponticum x R. ungernii and R. ungernii x R. smirnovii showed evidence of frequent backcrossing, while R. ponticum x R. caucasicum appeared unusual in that an intermediate hybrid type was abundant, whereas hybrids with phenotypes approaching either parent were rare. Possible explanations of this latter situation are discussed. The results suggest that natural hybridization among Rhododendron species is common and that ecological factors are important in maintaining integrity when species occur in sympatry.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Milne RI, Abbott RJ, Wolff K, Chamberlain DF

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: American Journal of Botany

Year: 1999

Volume: 86

Issue: 12

Pages: 1776-1785

Print publication date: 01/12/1999

ISSN (print): 0002-9122

ISSN (electronic): 1537-2197

Publisher: Botanical Society of America, Inc.


DOI: 10.2307/2656674


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