Hybridization and its possible impacts is a subject of increased attention in connection with the risk of unintended gene flow from cultivated (including genetically modified) plants to wild relatives. Whether such gene flow by hybridization is likely to take place depends among other things on the persistence of the hybrids in a natural environment over time. To evaluate this, we studied an experimental hybridizing population of wild and cultivated chicories (Cichorium intybus) relative to a previous study on the same population 2 years earlier. We compared the genetic composition, morphology and fitness traits of plants from 2004 to the plants in the same plot in 2002. The majority of the plants in 2004 was more morphologically and genetically intermediate than in 2002. This indicates that no selection towards being wild-like or cultivar-like was present over the period of 2 years. Furthermore, no distinct fitness differences existed between the plants of 2004, probably due to most of the plants being intermediate. No hybridization barriers appeared to be present between wild and cultivated chicories beyond the F1 generation, since F2 hybrids and backcrosses were in abundance; in fact, hybrids of probably fourth or fifth generation were present. In conclusion, all results indicate that no barriers exist to the temporal persistence of chicory hybrids in a natural environment.
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