Journal Article

Ecology and genetic diversity of the dense-flowered orchid, <i>Neotinea maculata</i>, at the centre and edge of its range

Karl J. Duffy, Giovanni Scopece, Salvatore Cozzolino, Michael F. Fay, Rhian J. Smith and Jane C. Stout

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 104, issue 3, pages 507-516
Published in print August 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online October 2008 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Ecology and genetic diversity of the dense-flowered orchid, Neotinea maculata, at the centre and edge of its range

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


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Background and Aims

Species may occur over a wide geographical range within which populations can display large variation in reproductive success and genetic diversity. Neotinea maculata is a rare orchid of conservation concern at the edge of its range in Ireland, where it occurs in small populations. However, it is relatively common throughout the Mediterranean region. Here, factors that affect rarity of N. maculata in Ireland are investigated by comparing Irish populations with those found in Italy, where it is more common.


Vegetation communities, breeding system and genetic diversity were compared using three amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) primer pairs in populations in Ireland and Italy. Vegetation was quantified using quadrats taken along transects in study populations, and hand pollination experiments were performed to assess reliance of N. maculata on pollinators in both Irish and Italian populations.

Key Results

Neotinea maculata occupies different vegetation communities in Italian and Irish populations. Breeding system experiments show that N. maculata is 100 % autogamous, and there are no differences in fruit and seed production in selfed, outcrossed and unmanipulated plants. AFLP markers revealed that Irish and Italian populations have similar genetic diversity and are distinct from each other.


Neotinea maculata does not suffer any negative effects of autogamous reproduction; it self-pollinates and sets seed readily in the absence of pollinators. It occupies a variety of habitats in both Ireland and Italy; however, Irish populations are small and rare and should be conserved. This could be due to climatic factors and the absence of suitable soil mycorrhizas to allow recruitment from seed.

Keywords: Neotinea maculata; AFLP; autogamy; conservation; genetic diversity; Lusitanian species; pollination

Journal Article.  6548 words.  Illustrated.

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

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