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Nathan C. Phillips, Steven R. Larson, and Daniel T. Drost

Three wild onion species native to the intermountain west in the United States—Allium acuminatum, A. brandegei, and A. passeyi—show horticultural potential, but little is known about patterns of genetic diversity among localized populations and geographical regions. We examined amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLP) within and among five Allium acuminatum, four A. brandegei, and three A. passeyi collection sites in Utah. These three congeners with contrasting abundance and distribution patterns provide an opportunity to investigate the role of geographic distance, altitude, and rarity in patterns of genetic divergence. The collection sites were selected along an altitudinal gradient to reflect ecogeographic variation. Individual plants from each of the 12 sites were genotyped using six AFLP primer combinations detecting DNA variation within and among all three species. Genetic differences between species were high enough to render comparisons among species impractical, so each species was analyzed separately for differences between populations and variability within populations. Similarity coefficients were significantly greater within collection sites versus among collection sites indicating divergence between populations. Within-population genetic diversity was not correlated with elevation for any of the three species. Analysis of molecular variance revealed that 66% (A. acuminatum), 83% (A. passeyi), and 64% (A. brandegei) of observed variation is found within populations. Genetic divergence among populations (ФST) was higher in the widely distributed species, suggesting that interpopulation gene flow may be negatively correlated with range size. Allium acuminatum and A. brandegei individuals cluster into groups corresponding strictly to collection sites based on neighbor-joining analysis of the total number of DNA polymorphisms between individual plants. Allium passeyi populations, however, had less overall genetic variation between populations. Genetic isolation by distance appeared responsible for much of the variability among populations, although there was one notable exception showing significant differences between two geographically close populations in A. acuminatum.

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Chalita Sriladda, Heidi A. Kratsch, Steven R. Larson, and Roger K. Kjelgren

The herbaceous perennial species in the genus Sphaeralcea have desirable drought tolerance and aesthetics with potential for low-water use landscapes in the Intermountain West. However, taxonomy of these species is ambiguous, which leads to decreased consumer confidence in the native plant nursery industry. The goal of this study was to test and clarify morphological and genetic differentiation among four putative Sphaeralcea species. Morphological characteristics of the type specimens were used as species references in canonical variate analysis to generate a classification model. This model was then used to assign putative species names to herbarium voucher specimens and to field-collected voucher specimens to clarify genetic variation among species. Field specimens were also classified using Bayesian cluster analyses of amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) genotypes. Sphaeralcea coccinea (Nutt.) Rydb. and S. grossulariifolia (Hook. & Arn.) Rydb. formed a composite group morphologically and genetically distinct from the S. munroana (Douglas) Spach and S. parvifolia A. Nelson composite group. Each composite group displayed genetic isolation by geographic distance. Also, morphological traits of S. munroana and S. parvifolia correlated to geographic distance. Taken together these results suggest that our samples represent two sympatric yet reproductively isolated groups. Distinguishing between these two Sphaeralcea composite groups can create greater consumer confidence in plant material developed for use in Intermountain West low-water landscaping.

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Chalita Sriladda, Heidi A. Kratsch, Steven R. Larson, Thomas A. Monaco, FenAnn Shen, and Roger K. Kjelgren

Shepherdia rotundifolia Parry (roundleaf buffaloberry), a shrub endemic to the U.S. Colorado Plateau high desert, has aesthetic and drought tolerance qualities desirable for low-water urban landscapes. However, slow growth and too often fatal sensitivity to wet or disturbed soil stymies nursery production and urban landscape use. The goal of this study was to create an interspecific hybrid between the evergreen-xeric S. rotundifolia and its widely adapted, fast-growing, deciduous relative Shepherdia argentea (silver buffaloberry) distributed in western North America riparian habitats. Genetics and leaf morphology of the resulting S. argentea × S. rotundifolia hybrid are described and compared with the parents, as well as hybrid gas exchange as a reasonable proxy for growth rate and potential tolerance of poor soil. Hybrid genotypes were heterogenous, but contained an intermediate and equal contribution of alleles from genetically heterogenous parent populations. Leaf morphology traits were also intermediate between both parents. Aesthetic leaf qualities (silver-blue color and revolute margins) sought from S. rotundifolia were conserved in all offspring. However, gas exchange responses varied widely between the two surviving hybrids. Both hybrids showed greater tolerance of wet, fertile substrate—and promise for use in low-water landscapes—than S. rotundifolia. However, one hybrid conserved faster growth, and by inference possibly greater tolerance of wet or disturbed soil, from S. argentea, while the opposite was observed in the second hybrid. Following botanical nomenclature, we named this hybrid Shepherdia ×utahensis.