Independent domestications of cultivated tree peonies from different wild peony species



An understanding of plant domestication history provides insights into general mechanisms of plant adaptation and diversification and can guide breeding programmes that aim to improve cultivated species. Cultivated tree peonies (genus Paeonia L.) are among the most popular ornamental plants in the world; yet, the history of their domestication is still unresolved. Here, we explored whether the domestication in China of historically cultivated peonies, that is, the common and flare cultivated tree peonies, was a single event or whether independent domestications occurred. We used 14 nuclear microsatellite markers and a comprehensive set of 553 tree peonies collected across China, including common tree peonies, flare tree peonies and the wild species or subspecies that are potential contributors to the cultivated tree peonies, that is, Paeonia rockii ssp. rockii, Prockii ssp. atava, Pjishanensis and Pdecomposita. Assignment methods, a principal component analysis and approximate Bayesian computations provided clear evidence for independent domestications of these common tree and flare tree peonies from two distinct and allopatric wild species, Pjishanensis and Prockii ssp. atava, respectively. This study provides the first example of independent domestications of cultivated trees from distinct species and locations. This work also yields crucial insight into the history of domestication of one of the most popular woody ornamental plants. The cultivated peonies represent an interesting case of parallel and convergent evolution. The information obtained in this study will be valuable both for improving current tree peony breeding strategies and for understanding the mechanisms of domestication, diversification and adaptation in plants.