Journal Article

Evidence of Hybridization Between <i>Lythrum salicaria</i> (Purple Loosestrife) and <i>L. alatum</i> (Winged Loosestrife) in North America


in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 96, issue 5, pages 877-885
Published in print October 2005 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online August 2005 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Evidence of Hybridization Between Lythrum salicaria (Purple Loosestrife) and L. alatum (Winged Loosestrife) in North America

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims Although Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife) was introduced to North America from Europe in the early 1800s, it did not become invasive until the 1930s. Whether hybridization with L. alatum (winged loosestrife) could have played a role in its ultimate spread was tested.

Methods Six diagnostic morphological traits (flower number per axil, leaf placement, calyx pubescence, style type, plant height and leaf shape) were surveyed in 30 populations of Lythrum across eastern North America. Patterns of AFLP variation were also evaluated using five primer pairs in a ‘global screen’ of the same North American populations of L. salicaria and L. alatum described above, in L. salicaria from 11 European populations located in Germany, England, Ireland, Austria and Finland, and in six L. salicaria cultivars.

Key Results All of the North American L. salicaria populations had individuals with alternate leaf placement and 1–2 flowers per leaf axil, which have not been described in Eurasian L. salicaria but predominate in North American L. alatum. In addition, two L. salicaria populations were intermediate in height and leaf ratio between the typical L. salicaria and L. alatum populations in their native fields and when grown in a common greenhouse. In screens of variation patterns using 279 AFLPs, only two fragments were found that clearly supported introgression from L. alatum to L. salicaria.

Conclusions The evidence indicates that L. salicaria may have hybridized with L. alatum, but if so, only a small fraction of L. alatum genes have been retained in the genome of L. salicaria. This is unlikely to have led to a dramatic adaptive shift unless the introgression of a few key genes into L. salicaria stimulated a genomic reorganization. It is more likely that crossing among genotypes of L. salicaria from multiple introductions provided the necessary variability for new adaptations to arise.

Keywords: Lythrum salicaria; Lythrum alatum; winged loosestrife; introgression; invasive species

Journal Article.  4632 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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