Genotypic variation and horticultural potential of Alnus maritima [Marsh.] Nutt. (seaside alder), a large shrub or small tree found naturally in only three small, disjunct populations, have not been studied. We examined effects of population of origin and environment on seed germination and growth and morphology of seedlings. The first experiment showed that 6 weeks of cold stratification optimized germination of half-sibling seeds from Oklahoma at 73.2%. When this treatment was applied to multiple groups of half-siblings from all populations in a second experiment, seeds from Oklahoma had a higher germination percentage (55.0%) than seeds from Georgia (31.4%) and the Delmarva Peninsula (14.7%). In a third experiment, morphology and growth of multiple groups of half-siblings from all three populations were compared in one environment. Leaves of seedlings from Oklahoma were longer (12.8 cm) and more narrow (2.15 length to width ratio) than leaves of seedlings from Georgia (12.0 cm long; ratio = 1.76) and the Delmarva Peninsula (11.6 cm long; ratio = 1.86). Seedlings from Oklahoma and Georgia accumulated dry weight at higher rates (181 and 160 mg·d-1, respectively) than seedlings from Delmarva (130 mg·d-1), while seedlings from Oklahoma and Delmarva were more densely foliated (0.72 and 0.64 leaves and lateral shoots per centimeter of primary stem, respectively) than those from Georgia (0.46 per cm). These differences indicate genetic divergence among the three disjunct populations and the potential to exploit genetic variation to select horticulturally superior A. maritima for use in managed landscapes.
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