Cultivation and Hybridization Alter the Germination Behavior of Native Plants Used in Revegetation and Restoration



Native plants are increasingly used for revegetation and restoration. These plants are cultivated for several generations at plant nurseries and often they are of unknown provenance. Therefore, cultivated plants often differ from their wild progenitors in life-history traits. Using germination behavior as example, we tested the assumption that cultivated plants have different life-history traits than their uncultivated progenitors. Cultivated as well as wild individuals of Plantago lanceolata and Lotus corniculatus, two species frequently used in revegetation, were tested in a common garden experiment as well as in incubators for their germination behavior. We observed significantly faster and more abundant germination in cultivated varieties. Using artificial crossings, we found that also hybrids of cultivated varieties and wild relatives germinate faster and more abundant than the wilds. As wild plants acquire their life-history traits by natural selection, we have to assume that they represent the optimal adaptation to the environmental conditions. If these traits are changed by cultivation or by hybridization between cultivated varieties and local populations, the long-term survival probabilities of local populations may be altered. Therefore, the use of cultivated varieties of native plants should be avoided in revegetation.