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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Clonal Fidelity in Large Colonies of Box Huckleberry (Gaylussacia brachycera Gray) Assessed by DNA Fingerprinting

Authors
item Pooler, Margaret
item Nicholson, Rob - SMITH COLL BOTANIC GARDEN
item Vandegrift, Andrew - STUDENT, ARS/USNA/FNPRU

Submitted to: Northeastern Naturalist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 23, 2007
Publication Date: March 12, 2008
Repository URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10113/17706
Citation: Pooler, M.R., Nicholson, R., Vandergrift, A. 2008. Clonal fidelity in large colonies of box huckleberry (Gaylussacia brachycea Gray) assessed by DNA fingerprinting. Northeastern Naturalist. 15(1):67-74.

Interpretive Summary: The box huckleberry is a slow-growing, dwarf evergreen plant in the blueberry family that is native to eight states in the Eastern United States. It is a rare plant with conservation status in several states of critically imperiled (S1). Botanists have been intrigued by this native plant since it was discovered in 1796 in Virginia. One of the mysteries of this species is whether individual plants in a colony arose from different genotypes or are clonal, that is, genetically identical. The species reproduces primarily by means of underground runners and appears to be self-sterile, so sexual reproduction within isolated colonies could be limited. Using molecular markers, we tested samples taken from three of the most well-known colonies in Pennsylvania and one in Tennessee, and found that genetic diversity within a colony does exist, although it appears to be limited. This study represents the first time that molecular markers have been used in a systematic assay to determine the existence of variation among individuals within a colony of box huckleberry.

Technical Abstract: The box huckleberry (Gaylussacia brachycera) is a slow-growing, dwarf evergreen member of the family Ericaceae that is native to eight states in the Eastern United States. It is a rare plant with conservation status in several states of critically imperiled (S1). Botanists have been intrigued by this enigmatic native plant since it was discovered in 1796 in Virginia. One of the mysteries of this species is whether individual plants in a colony arose from different genotypes or are clonal. The species reproduces primarily by means of underground runners and appears to be self-sterile, so sexual reproduction within isolated colonies could be limited. Using molecular markers, we tested samples taken from three of the most well-known colonies in Pennsylvania and one in Tennessee. Based on 104 polymorphic markers, we found that one of the Pennsylvania colonies contained two genotypes among 11 samples tested; one Pennsylvania colony contained three genotypes among five samples tested; and the other two colonies exhibited no variation among samples. This study represents the first time that molecular markers have been used in a systematic assay to determine the existence of variation among individuals within a colony of G. brachycera.

Last Modified: 12/22/2014
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