The genera Lychnis L. and Silene L. belong to the family Caryophyllaceae. Lychnis species, commonly known as campion or catchfly, are native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, from East Asia to Central Asia, Europe, and North and East Africa (Oxelman et al., 2000; Popp et al., 2008). Lychnis is characterized by perennial herbs, consisting of ≈30 species with some species being extensively cultivated as landscape ornamentals. Silene is the largest genus in Caryophyllaceae, consisting of biennial or perennial herbs with species numbers varying from 500 to 700 (Melzheimer, 1988; Oxelman et al., 2000; Walters, 1989). Silene species occur worldwide, although the greatest diversity occurs in the Mediterranean region (Oxelman et al., 2000). The taxonomic boundary between Lychnis and Silene L. is often disputed (Desfeux and Lejeune, 1996; Kruckeberg, 1962). Both genera have been merged in cladistic theory (Desfeux and Lejeune, 1996; Negrutiu et al., 2001), yet Lychnis as an independent genus is also accepted by researchers beyond taxonomic fields. Distinction between the traditional genera Lychnis and Silene in morphology is that Lychnis usually has five styles and an entire capsule, whereas Silene has three styles and a split capsule (Desfeux and Lejeune, 1996).
Lychnis has ornamental merit because most species are perennial, have good drought tolerance, and exhibit high diversity in morphology and ecophysiology. The majority of Lychnis and Silene species have identical somatic chromosome numbers (2n = 2x = 24) (Negrutiu et al., 2001), which suggests the possibility of hybridization for exploring desirable and exotic hybrids for commercial use. Hybridization has been used to test the phylogeny relationship of Lychnis and Silene (Kruckeberg, 1962; Wilson et al., 1995). A number of cultivars are commercially available and were obtained from intraspecific breeding (Godo et al., 2009; Mayol and Rossello, 2006). An exceptional example is Lychnis ×arkwrightii Heydt, which is a putative hybrid between Lychnis chalcedonica L. and Lychnis ×haageana Lemoine. The majority of Lychnis species are hermaphrodites and are cross-pollinated by insects, which is aided by being protandrous, although self-pollination does occur. Therefore, crossing combinations were made to test the crossability among Lychnis and Silene species and cultivars.
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