Original Article

Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 299, Issue 8, pp 1523-1535

First online:

Ecotypes and genetic structure of Rhinanthus alectorolophus (Orobanchaceae) in southwestern Germany

  • Thekla PleinesAffiliated withDepartment of Botany, Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History Email author 
  • , Korinna EsfeldAffiliated withDepartment of Botany, Stuttgart State Museum of Natural HistoryInstitute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern
  • , Frank R. BlattnerAffiliated withDepartmentof Genebank, Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK)
  • , Mike ThivAffiliated withDepartment of Botany, Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History

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European annual species of the genus Rhinanthus often exhibit seasonal ecotypic variation, a phenomenon also known from related genera of hemiparasitic Orobanchaceae. Populations with different flowering times exist, correlated with differences in a number of morphological characters. The present study evaluates the correlation of morphological characters and genetic differentiation of populations of Rhinanthus alectorolophus. Thirty-nine populations of three different subspecies from southwestern Germany were sampled. A total of 798 individuals were used for morphological analyses and 187 of these for AFLP analyses. Principal component analysis showed that morphological variation is mostly continuous. In a discriminant analysis based on morphological characters, only 89.7 % of all individuals were correctly assigned to their previously determined subspecies, indicating that subspecies identification is ambiguous for some populations. Using AFLP data and Bayesian assignment analysis, the sampled individuals could be grouped in three genetic clusters which do not correspond to the three subspecies. Instead, the clustering shows a clear geographic pattern and a Mantel test likewise revealed a significant correlation between genetic and geographic distances. Correlations of genetic distances with differences in morphological characters were weak and mostly insignificant. The results indicate that the subspecies of R. alectorolophus do not form discrete entities and that the character combinations distinguishing them are homoplastic.


AFLP Isolation by distance Morphology Orobanchaceae Rhinanthus alectorolophus Ecotypes Subspecies