Journal Article

Stony Endocarp Dimension and Shape Variation in <i>Prunus</i> Section <i>Prunus</i>

Leander Depypere, Peter Chaerle, Kristine Vander Mijnsbrugge and Paul Goetghebeur

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 100, issue 7, pages 1585-1597
Published in print December 2007 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online October 2007 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Stony Endocarp Dimension and Shape Variation in Prunus Section Prunus

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


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Background and Aims

Identification of Prunus groups at subspecies or variety level is complicated by the wide range of variation and morphological transitional states. Knowledge of the degree of variability within and between species is a sine qua non for taxonomists. Here, a detailed study of endocarp dimension and shape variation for taxa of Prunus section Prunus is presented.


The sample size necessary to obtain an estimation of the population mean with a precision of 5 % was determined by iteration. Two cases were considered: (1) the population represents an individual; and (2) the population represents a species. The intra-individual and intraspecific variation of Prunus endocarps was studied by analysing the coefficients of variance for dimension and shape parameters. Morphological variation among taxa was assessed using univariate statistics. The influence of the time of sampling and the level of hydration on endocarp dimensions and shape was examined by means of pairwise t-tests. In total, 14 endocarp characters were examined for five Eurasian plum taxa.

Key Results

All linear measurements and index values showed a low or normal variability on the individual and species level. In contrast, the parameter ‘Vertical Asymmetry’ had high coefficients of variance for one or more of the taxa studied. Of all dimension and shape parameters studied, only ‘Triangle’ differed significantly between mature endocarps of P. insititia sampled with a time difference of 1 month. The level of hydration affected endocarp dimensions and shape significantly.


Index values and the parameters ‘Perimeter’, ‘Area’, ‘Triangle’, ‘Ellipse’, ‘Circular’ and ‘Rectangular’, based on sample sizes and coefficients of variance, were found to be most appropriate for further taxonomic analysis. However, use of one, single endocarp parameter is not satisfactory for discrimination between Eurasian plum taxa, mainly because of overlapping ranges. Before analysing dried endocarps, full hydration is recommended, as this restores the original dimensions and shape.

Keywords: Prunus section Prunus; Eurasian plums; stony endocarps; dimension and shape variation; index values; mathematical descriptors; morphometrics, archaeobotany

Journal Article.  7691 words.  Illustrated.

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

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