Cytological Analysis of a Clethra alnifolia `Hokie Pink' × C. pringlei Hybrid

in HortScience

Clethra alnifolia L., a native deciduous shrub cultivated as an ornamental, was recently hybridized with C. pringlei S. Wats. The purpose of this hybridization was to combine the cold hardiness and adaptability of C. alnifolia with the ornamental foliage of C. pringlei. While most of the C. alnifolia × C. pringlei hybrids more closely resembled C. alnifolia than the paternal species, a `Hokie Pink' × C. pringlei hybrid (NA71586) with foliage that flushes red like C. pringlei was recovered. The objectives of this study were to analyze cytologically the F1 and produce a F2 population from NA71586. Chromosome counts from root tips cells indicated that NA71586 has 32 chromosomes. Since the chromosome number of C. alnifolia is 2n = 32 and that of C. pringlei was found to be 2n = 16, NA71586 appears to have developed following fertilization of a C. alnifolia egg with an unreduced male gamete from C. pringlei. Both `Hokie Pink' and C. pringlei exhibited primarily bivalent pairing in pollen mother cells (PMCs). Over half of the PMCs from NA71586 contained 16 bivalents, indicating substantial homology within the C. alnifolia genome. It was theorized that C. alnifolia is either an autotetraploid that exhibits bivalent pairing or a segmental allotetraploid produced from hybridization of species with similar genomes. More than 700 F2 progeny were obtained from self-pollination of NA71586. Although many of the F2 progeny resembled NA71586, variation in foliage color, size and shape was apparent in the population.

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