Population genetic analysis of Elliottiaracemosa (Ericaceae), a rare Georgia shrub


Mary Jo W. Godt, Department of Botany, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA. Fax: +706–542–1805; E-mail: godt@dogwood.botany.uga.edu


Genetic and genotypic diversity found within populations of threatened plant species can have important implications for their conservation and management. In this study we describe genetic and genotypic diversity found within 10 populations of the endemic shrub Elliottiaracemosa (Ericaceae), the Georgia plume. E. racemosa is a threatened species known from fewer than 50 locations, all within the state of Georgia, USA. Seedset is limited to nonexistent in some E. racemosa populations and sexual recruitment has not been documented. However, the species is known to spread vegetatively via root-sprouts. Twenty-one allozyme loci were resolved for E. racemosa, nine of which were polymorphic. Compared with other woody taxa, E. racemosa has low genetic (i.e. allelic) diversity within populations (Hep = 0.063) and at the species level (Hes = 0.091). Most of the genetic variation (82%) was found within populations, and genetic identities between populations were high (mean I = 0.96). However, genotypic diversity (i.e. the number of multilocus genotypes) differed markedly among populations. Two of the 10 populations consisted almost entirely of single multilocus genotypes, whereas more than 20 multilocus genotypes (in samples of 48 stems) were detected at three sites. Sites in which few multilocus genotypes were detected have low seedset, suggesting that the lack of clonal diversity limits reproduction in some populations of this reportedly self-incompatible species.