Cultivated caladiums are valued for their bright colorful leaves and are widely used in containers and landscapes. More than 1500 named cultivars have been introduced during the past 150 years, yet currently only about 100 cultivars are in commercial propagation in Florida. Caladium tubers produced in Florida account for 95% of the world supplies. Loss of caladium germplasm or genetic diversity has been a concern to future improvement of this plant. In addition, the relationship among the available cultivars, particularly those of close resemblance, has been lacking. This study was conducted to assess the genetic variability and relationship in commercial cultivars and species accessions. Fifty-seven major cultivars and 15 caladium species accessions were analyzed using the target region amplification polymorphism marker technique. This marker system does not involve DNA restriction or adaptor linking, but shares the same high throughput and reliability with the amplified fragment length polymorphism system (AFLP). Eight primer combinations amplified 379 scorable DNA fragments among the caladium samples. A high level of polymorphism was detected among the species accessions as well as among cultivars. These markers allowed differentiation of all the cultivars tested, including those hardly distinguishable morphologically. Clustering analysis based on these DNA fingerprints separated the cultivars into five clusters and Caladium lindenii far from other caladium species. The availability of this information will be very valuable for identifying and maintaining the core germplasm resources and will aid in selecting breeding parents for further improvement.
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