Multiple origins of polyploidy and the geographic structure of Heuchera grossulariifolia


K. A. Segraves Department of Biology, Vanderbilt University, Box 1812-B, Nashville, TN 37235, USA. Fax: +1-615-343-0336; E-mail:


Multiple origins of polyploidy from an ancestral diploid plant species were investigated using restriction site polymorphism and sequence variation in the chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) of Heuchera grossulariifolia (Saxifragaceae). Phylogenetic analysis indicated that autopolyploidy has arisen at least twice in the evolutionary history of this species and potentially up to as many as seven times. These results suggest a greater range of independent polyploid origins as compared to a previous study of H. grossulariifolia using cpDNA restriction sites that indicated a minimum of three independent origins. Moreover, most polyploid populations did not contain cpDNA haplotypes from a single origin, but rather combined haplotypes from at least two polyploid origins. Past migration among polyploid populations of independent origin or localized polyploid formation may explain the distribution of polyploid haplotypes within and among populations. The analysis also revealed a discrepancy between relatedness and geographical location. In nearly all sympatric populations of diploids and polyploids, polyploids had the same cpDNA haplotypes as diploids from a geographically remote population. This geographical discordance has several possible explanations, including small sample sizes, extinction of parental diploid haplotypes, chloroplast introgression, and homoplasy in the cpDNA sequence data. We conclude that the recurrent formation of polyploids is an important evolutionary mechanism in the diversification of H. grossulariifolia.