Comparison of clonal diversity in mountain and Piedmont populations of Trillium cuneatum (Melanthiaceae-Trilliaceae) , a forest understory species

Gonzales, E.; Hamrick, J.L.; Smouse, P.E.

American Journal of Botany 95(10): 1254-1261


ISSN/ISBN: 0002-9122
PMID: 21632330
DOI: 10.3732/ajb.2007159
Accession: 052231041

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The balance between clonal and sexual reproduction can vary widely among plant populations, and the extent of clonality may be influenced by the combined effects of historical land use and variation in environmental conditions. We investigated patterns of clonal spread in five Trillium cuneatum populations, two in the Appalachian Mountains characterized by mesic, cooler conditions, and three at lower elevations experiencing warmer, drier conditions and greater disturbance. Using a new measure of the genet effective number and innovative orthogonal contrast methods, we quantified genet structure, contrasting clonal growth in the mountains with that in the Piedmont. Asexual propagation was more common in the Piedmont, where 25% of the sampled ramets were clonally derived, but was much less frequent in the mountains (7% clonal replicates). Hierarchical partitioning of variation in genet diversity showed that the majority (75.8%) of the variation resulted from more vegetative replication in the Piedmont. Most of the remaining variation (21.6%) was attributable to differences between urban and rural Piedmont populations, and a small, statistically nonsignificant fraction of the variation (2.6%) was due to interpopulation differences within the mountains. Higher frequency of cloning may enhance both genetic and demographic population viability in fragmented Piedmont habitats.