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Keywords:

  • cpDNA markers ;
  • divergence time ;
  • genetic diversity ;
  • ITS ;
  • morphological diversification ;
  • network haplotype analysis ;
  • plant phylogeography ;
  • species complex

In this study, we evaluated the genetic diversity of the Petunia integrifolia species group using a phylogeographical approach, and attempted to understand better its diversification and taxonomy. Plants from five morphological groups were collected, covering a large part of the geographical distribution of most of the species. Two major clades were found in the phylogenetic tree, and an additional lineage, corresponding to P. inflata, was found in the haplotype network obtained for plastid markers. All three lineages are clearly delimited geographically, but, with the exception of P. inflata, the morphological groups were not genetically distinct. Our results suggest that a population expansion after a size reduction resulted in the establishment of two distinct and allopatric groups c. 0.5 Mya, one group occurring in a geologically ancient area, and the other occurring in areas that were under the influence of a series of marine transgressions/regressions at the end of the Pleistocene. These two clades are evolutionarily significant units with significantly different allele frequencies in their nuclear genome and reciprocal monophyly in maternal, uniparentally inherited markers. All our results suggest that the morphology-based taxonomy in this group does not reflect its evolutionary history, and revision of its species limits should incorporate the distribution of the genetic diversity. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2014, 174, 199–213.