Morphological and genetic evidence of contemporary intersectional hybridisation in Mediterranean Helichrysum (Asteraceae, Gnaphalieae)


  • Editor

M. Galbany-Casals, Departament de Biologia Animal, Biologia Vegetal i Ecologia, Facultat de Biociències, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain.


Hybridisation is considered an important evolutionary phenomenon in Gnaphalieae, but contemporary hybridisation has been little explored within the tribe. Here, hybridisation between Helichrysum orientale and Helichrysum stoechas is studied at two different localities in the islands of Crete and Rhodes (Greece). Using three different types of molecular data (AFLP, nrDNA ITS sequences and cpDNA ndhF sequences) and morphological data, the aim is to provide simultaneous and direct comparisons between molecular and morphological variation among the parental species and the studied hybrid populations. AFLP profiles, ITS sequences and morphological data support the existence of hybrids at the two localities studied, shown as morphological and genetic intermediates between the parental species. Chloroplast DNA sequences show that both parental species can act either as pollen donor or as maternal parent. Fertility of hybrids is demonstrated by the viability of seeds produced by hybrids from both localities, and the detection of a backcross specimen to H. orientale. Although there is general congruence of morphological and molecular data, the analysis of morphology and ITS sequences can fail to detect backcross hybrids.