Aucuba have been cultivated for centuries and are valued as adaptable, broad-leaved, evergreen shrubs that also can have attractive, spotted variegations on the foliage. Improved understanding of the cytogenetics and heritability of specific traits, for specific clones and cultivars, can provide basic information to help facilitate the breeding and improvement of aucuba. The objectives of this study were to determine ploidy level and relative genome size of a diverse collection of species and cultivars of aucuba using flow cytometry and cytology and to make additional observations on heritability of spotted leaf variegation. Chromosome counts were 2n = 2x = 16 for Aucuba chinensis (A. omeiensis), 2n = 4x = 32 for A. japonica ‘Rozannie’, and 2n = 6x = 48 for A. sp. ‘Hosoba’. Relative 2C genome size for the 57 taxa varied from 13.8 pg for A. obcordata to 42.0 pg for A. ‘Hosoba’ and fell within three discrete groups consistent with cytotype. Genome size for diploid taxa (A. chinensis and A. obcordata) ranged from 13.8 to 21.0 pg, tetraploids (A. himalaica var. oblanceolata, A. japonica, and A. japonica var. borealis) ranged from 28.8 to 31.2 pg, and the first-ever reported hexaploids (A. ‘Hosoba’ and A. sp. – Vietnam) ranged from 40.5 to 42.0 pg. Unlike prior reports that indicated inheritance of spotted variegations were extranuclear genes that were maternally inherited, we found that the spotted leaf trait expressed in A. japonica ‘Shilpot’ appears to be a nuclear gene that is inherited in a quantitative fashion and not strictly maternal. These data provide an enhanced foundation for breeding improved aucuba.
Camellia L., the most speciose member of the diverse tea family Theaceae, has a long and complex horticultural history. Extensive cultivation and hybridization have produced thousands of varieties of Camellia, including commercially important crops such as cultivated tea, oilseed, and iconic flowering shrubs. Cytogenetics of Camellia and related genera is complicated; chromosome number and ploidy can vary widely between species, and interspecific and interploid hybridization occurs. However, specific information regarding cytogenetics of many species, cultivars, and modern hybrids is lacking. The objectives of this study were to compile a consolidated literature review of the cytogenetics of Camellia and related genera and to determine chromosome numbers, ploidy, and genome sizes of specific accessions of selected species, cultivars, and interspecific and interploid hybrids. A review of the existing literature regarding Theaceae cytogenetics is presented as a consolidated reference comprising 362 taxa. Genome sizes were determined with flow cytometry using propidium iodide as a fluorochrome and Pisum sativum ‘Ctirad' and Magnolia virginiana ‘Jim Wilson’ as internal standards. Chromosome numbers of selected taxa were determined using traditional cytology and were used to calibrate genome sizes with ploidy level. Our results confirmed a base chromosome number of x = 15 for Theeae including Camellia, x = 17 for Stewartiae, and x = 18 for Gordoniae. Surveyed camellias ranged from 2n = 2x = 30 to 2n = 8x = 120, including diploids, triploids, tetraploids, pentaploids, hexaploids, and octoploids. Previously uncharacterized taxa such as Camellia azalea, C. amplexicaulis, C. chrysanthoides, C. cordifolia, C. cucphuongensis, C. flava, C. nanyongensis, and C. trichoclada were found to be diploid. Ploidy was also newly determined for Schima argentea, S. khasiana, S. remotiserrata, and S. sinensis (all diploids). Both diploid and triploid Stewartia ovata were found, and a ploidy series was discovered for Polyspora that ranged from diploid to octoploid. Ploidy determinations were used to confirm or challenge the validity of putative interploid hybrids. Monoploid genome sizes varied among subfamily and genera, with 1Cx values ranging from 0.80 pg for Franklinia to a mean of 3.13 pg for Camellia, demonstrating differential rates of genome expansion independent of ploidy. Within Camellia, monoploid genome sizes varied among subgenera, sections, and some species (range, 2.70–3.55 pg). This study provides a consolidated and expanded knowledgebase of ploidy, genome sizes, hybridity, and reproductive pathways for specific accessions of Camellia and related genera that will enhance opportunities and strategies for future breeding and improvement within Theaceae.