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  • Author or Editor: Andrew Sherwood x
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Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia Bartr.) is an understory shrub native to the southeastern United States. Hydrangeas are popular ornamental landscape plants; however, little is known about the diversity in horticulturally important traits for oakleaf hydrangea. Information regarding the variation in important traits could guide future breeding efforts for the species. Seed was collected from 55 populations throughout the range of the species for the purpose of conducting a horticultural characterization of the species compared with select cultivars. Plant architecture was characterized as plant height, number of nodes, internode length, number of branches, and plant width. Plant architecture was measured for container-grown and field-grown plants in two locations (Minnesota and Tennessee). Tolerance to leaf spot (Xanthomonas campestris L.) was characterized for wild-collected seedlings and cultivars by measuring disease severity under exposure to ambient inoculum. Cold hardiness was characterized during two winters with a controlled freezing experiment. During the first winter, seedlings were tested in January; during the second winter, seedlings and cultivars were tested monthly from October through April. Plant architecture varied by environment, with plants growing larger in Tennessee than in Minnesota. The heights of container-grown and field-grown plants were correlated with the collection site latitude (r = −0.66), with populations from the northeastern extent of the range of the species being the most compact, and populations from Florida being the tallest. Leaf spot severity varied significantly among populations and cultivars and was also correlated with latitude for the seedlings (r = 0.70). Two populations in Florida were identified as sources of high tolerance to leaf spot, whereas ‘Flemygea’ and ‘Alice’ were identified as having moderate tolerance to leaf spot. Cold hardiness varied among populations and cultivars and among months of the winter. The overall maximum cold hardiness was observed in February [mean lethal temperature (LT50) = −33.7 °C], and several populations maintained an extreme level of cold hardiness into late winter. Midwinter cold hardiness also varied by latitude (r = −0.65), with northern populations showing higher levels of cold hardiness. These results indicate that certain wild oakleaf hydrangea populations will be useful for introgressing novel variation into breeding programs.

Open Access

Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is an understory shrub native to the southeastern United States. The species occupies a relatively small native range, and little is known about its demography, genetic diversity, or needs for conservation. Samples were collected from 188 plants in 73 locations throughout the species range and were genotyped using genotyping by sequencing. A structure analysis identified six genetic clusters that are geographically defined. Although these clusters are weakly differentiated, each has unique alleles. An environmental association analysis revealed that environmental variables explain 11.3% of genetic diversity, and population structure explains 13.5%. Further, 231 putative adaptive alleles were identified, most of which are correlated with precipitation-related variables, indicating that precipitation has an impact on genetic diversity in H. quercifolia. Many historically documented populations were found to be either extirpated or at risk of extirpation. The genetic clusters on the southern extent of the species range are relatively small and contain putative adaptive alleles at relatively high frequencies. These results highlight the importance of preserving representative germplasm from throughout the species range.

Open Access