Knowledge of the origin of Lavatera L. (tree mallows) cultivars helps to predict their cultural requirements. Eighteen accessions representing 15 cultivars, 14 accessions of 7 species, and 5 accessions of an F1 hybrid between the putative parents of the cultivars were sampled for morphological variation and for randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) fingerprint variation. Species-specific molecular markers were identified from the RAPD profiles. Chimeral elements were not distinguishable by RAPD analysis. Principal component analysis identified the majority of the cultivars to be selections of hybrid origin, probably from a narrow genetic base. Two cultivars were derived directly from individual species. The resolving power of RAPD markers and morphology was similar although RAPD data offered greater ability to ascribe parentage while morphology offered optimal discrimination of cultivar selections.
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