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  • Author or Editor: Dominic A. Gillooly x
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Kalmia is a highly ornamental genus of shrubs native to North America and Cuba and grown as a valuable nursery crop throughout much of the temperate world. Although most species of Kalmia have previously been found to be diploid with 2n = 2x = 24, one species, Kalmia polifolia, has been found to be tetraploid. However, sampling within the genus has been limited, and information on the ploidy levels of specific cultivars is lacking. The objective of this study was to determine the relative genome sizes and ploidy levels of species, hybrids, and cultivars of Kalmia. Flow cytometry was used to determine the relative genome sizes of 67 accessions representing species, interspecific hybrids, cultivars, and chemically induced polyploids. Traditional cytology was used to calibrate genome sizes with ploidy levels. Results showed that relative genome sizes were conserved with 1Cx values ranging from 0.57 pg for Kalmia carolina to 0.70 pg for Kalmia latifolia. Most species of Kalmia were diploid including K. buxifolia (Leiophyllum buxifolium), K. carolina, K. cuneata, K. hirsuta, K. latifolia, and K. microphylla. Although plants of K. carolina (Kalmia angustifolia var. carolina) were uniformly diploid, the closely related, but more northerly distributed, K. angustifolia was primarily tetraploid, providing additional justification for treating these as separate species. An unusual triploid of K. angustifolia f. candida was also documented. Kalmia polifolia included both tetraploid and potentially pentaploid individuals, indicating a ploidy series within this species. Kalmia latifolia cultivars also included one triploid, two cytochimeras, and two chemically induced tetraploids. Overall, polyploidy was more prevalent in Kalmia than previously reported and varied both within and among species. This broader survey of relative genome sizes and ploidy levels in Kalmia provides valuable information for plant breeders and new insights into the systematics and cytogenetics of the genus.

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