Simple sequence repeats (SSRs) are highly polymorphic regions of DNA that can be used for the molecular characterization of apple (Malus) germplasm. SSR markers are sufficiently variable to distinguish between individual plants in wild Malus species. In this study, accessions of Malus hupehensis were screened for fragment length variation in PCR amplified simple sequence repeat regions of DNA. The fragment length phenotype produced by five SSR primer pairs showed no variation between two lineages of M. hupehensis collected in the Changjiang (Yangtse) River valley. One lineage was collected by E.H. Wilson in 1908 near the city of Ichang, Hubei Province. The second lineage was collected by cooperators at China's Southwest Agricultural University (SWAU) in 1997 near the city of Chongqing (Chungking). M. hupehensis Plant Introduction No. 588760 from the National Plant Germplasm System lacks provenance, but displays a fragment length phenotype identical to both the Wilson and SWAU lineages. The spread of a clone may be aided by asexual reproduction through seed, which is not uncommon in polyploid apples. Two seedlings each of 15 maternal trees from the SWAU lineage were assayed for ploidy level by flow cytometry. The DNA content per nucleus for all SWAU progeny fell within the range for triploids, 2.19 to 2.68 pg DNA/nucleus. It appears that plant explorers in China separated by almost 90 years have succeeded in sampling a single clonal lineage of M. hupehensis.
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