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Keywords:

  • Asteraceae;
  • colonizer;
  • pseudo-self-compatibility;
  • self-incompatibility;
  • Senecio

Senecio squalidus (Oxford ragwort) is a well-known introduction to the British flora that has proved to be an extremely successful colonist over the last 150 years. Unusually for a colonizing species, S. squalidus is self-incompatible (SI). Being a member of the Asteraceae, SI in S. squalidus is expected to be sporophytic. This paper presents genetic data showing that the SI system of S. squalidus is indeed sporophytic and is controlled by a single multiallelic S locus, alleles of which show the dominance/recessive relationships characteristic of sporophytic SI (SSI). Early indications are that the number of S alleles in populations is low because only four different S alleles were identified in a sample of four plants from two distinct populations; one S allele, S1, a pollen/stigma recessive allele, was present in all four plants. Forced inbreeding, using salt-treatment to overcome SI, was shown to generate ‘pseudo-self-compatible’ individuals with weakened SI and a loss/reduction in stigmatic S-specific discrimination. Relatively high frequencies of unpredictable compatible crossing ‘anomalies’ suggest that a ‘gametophytic element’ may influence the outcome of crosses in certain genetic backgrounds so as to increase levels of compatibility when S alleles are shared. Together, these findings indicate a genetic ‘flexibility’ in the SSI system of S. squalidus that could be crucial to its success as a colonizer.