Genetic Relationships and Population Structure of the Endangered Steamboat Buckwheat, Eriogonum ovalifolium var. williamsiae (Polygonaceae)

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American Journal of Botany



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Eriogonum ovalifolium var. williamsiae (Steamboat buckwheat) is a narrow endemic subshrub, known from a single locality in Washoe County, Nevada. We examined genetic structure of the only known population by analyzing patterns of allozyme variation. Our results suggest that Steamboat buckwheat has high genetic variability, with levels of variation similar to that typical of a widespread species rather than a narrow endemic. Genotype frequencies suggest that mating is random. We detected no genetic subdivision of the population. Several clones spanning up to 67 cm were found, but we do not know if such clones are common. We used allozyme data to assess the genetic similarity of var. williamsiae to five other varieties of E. ovalifolium. All six varieties are very similar allozymically with var. williamsiae being the most similar to the widespread var. ovalifolium. Although var. williamsiae and var. ovalifolium are morphologically distinct, their genetic similarity warrants further study to determine whether or not they should be treated as separate taxa. Evidence of male sterility in var. williamsiae plus other data leads us to hypothesize that this taxon might be either a hybrid or undergoing cytoplasmic introgression. Information gathered from this study, in concert with ongoing work on the breeding system of Steamboat buckwheat, should be helpful in forming management strategies for this plant.

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