Clonal diversity, spatial dynamics, and small genetic population size in the rare sunflower, Helianthus verticillatus


Knowledge of population size is an important step for identifying populations of immediate conservation concern. However, this task is difficult in plant species that exhibit clonal growth, since a simple "head count" may not be appropriate. Here, I determine the genetic population size and the extent of clonality in the four known populations of a rare sunflower, Helianthus verticillatus. Previous work in this species revealed high genetic diversity in all populations but significant fitness differences among them. In this study, populations exhibited high clonal diversity but consisted of far fewer genetic individuals than previously reported. Moreover, the clonal structure of populations was clumped, such that genotypes were highly clustered, which may promote selfing among genets. The results of this study are related to previously examined levels of genetic diversity and fitness, and findings are discussed in the context of the ecological and biological dynamics in clonal plant populations. Finally, the results of this study led to an upgrade in the priority status of this species for the Endangered Species List. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

Publication Title

Conservation Genetics