Growth-related traits, such as greater height, greater biomass, faster growth rate and early flowering, are thought to enhance competitiveness of agricultural weeds. However, weedy rice, a conspecific weed of cultivated rice (Oryza sativa L.), displays variation for growth traits. In the United States, separately evolved weedy rice groups have been shown to share genomic identity with exotic domesticated cultivars. Through a common garden experiment, we investigated whether growth trait divergence has occurred among U.S. weeds and their putative cultivated progenitors. We also determined polymorphism patterns in the growth candidate gene, SD1, to assess its possible role in the evolution of divergent phenotypes. We found considerable growth trait variation among weed groups, suggesting that growth trait convergence is not evident among weedy populations. Phenotypic divergence of weedy rice from cultivated ancestors is most apparent for flowering time. Introgression of a chromosomal block containing the SD1 allele from tropical japonica, the predominant U.S. rice cultivar, was detected in one weedy rice population and is associated with a change in growth patterns in this group. This study demonstrates the role of introgressive hybridization in evolutionary divergence of an important weed.
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