Hydrangea popularity and use in the landscape has expanded rapidly in recent years with the addition of remontant varieties. Most cultivars in production belong to the species Hydrangea macrophylla but H. paniculata, H. arborescens, H. serrata, H. aspera, H. heteromalla, H. integrifolia, H. anomala, H. seemanii, and H. quercifolia are also commercially available. In addition to species diversity there is high intra-species variation, particularly in H. macrophylla, which includes mopheads, lacecaps, French, Japanese, dwarf, and variegated varieties. Relatively little is known about the genetic background or combinability of these plants. DNA sequence data, genome size, RAPD, AFLP, and ISSR markers have been used for taxonomic identification and to estimate diversity within the genus. All of these methods have limited usefulness in a large scale breeding program. We recently established microsatellite markers for Hydrangea and evaluated their utility for estimating species diversity and identifying cultivars within H. macrophylla and H. paniculata. We also verified an inter-specific cross between H. macrophylla and H. paniculata using these markers. Future research includes marker assisted breeding, particularly with respect to remontant flowering traits.
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