Natural hybridisation between Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl. and Quercus pubescens Willd. within an Italian stand as revealed by microsatellite fingerprinting


  • Editor
    F. Salamini

S. Fineschi, CNR – IPP, via Madonna del Piano 10, I-50019 Sesto Fiorentino – FI, Italy.


Interspecific gene flow is frequently reported in the genus Quercus. However, interfertile oak species often seem to remain distinct, even within areas of sympatry. This study employed molecular markers to verify, at a fine scale, the presence of interspecific gene flow in a natural population of Quercus petraea and Quercus pubescens. Within a delimited area of 6 ha, all adult trees belonging to the studied oak complex and seeds from a subsample of such trees were collected and analysed using molecular microsatellite markers. A low interspecific genetic differentiation and a high level of interspecific genetic admixture suggested past hybridisation. Paternity inference of seeds allowed the estimation of pollination frequencies from the three groups of pollen donors (Q. petraea, Q. pubescens, intermediate). We also assayed pollen viability and germinability of each species group. We observed natural hybridisation between Q. petraea and Q. pubescens, with a predominant component in the direction Q. petraea → Q. pubescens: Q. pubescens displayed a higher level of heterospecific pollination by Q. petraea (25.8%) and intermediate morphotypes (14.7%), compared to Q. petraea acting as pollen receptor (with less than 5% heterospecific pollinations). Intermediate ‘mother trees’ were pollinated in similar proportions by Q. petraea (23.1%), Q. pubescens (37.8%) and intermediate morphotypes (39.1%). The asymmetrical introgression observed for the studied generation may be caused, among other factors, by the relative abundance of trees from each species group in the studied area.