, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 1107-1119

The role of intraspecific hybridization in the evolution of invasiveness: a case study of the ornamental pear tree Pyrus calleryana

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Abstract

Hybridization between genetically distinct populations of a single species can serve as an important stimulus for the evolution of invasiveness. Such intraspecific hybridization was examined in Pyrus calleryana, a Chinese tree species commonly planted as an ornamental in residential and commercial areas throughout the United States. This self-incompatible species is now escaping cultivation and appearing in disturbed habitats, where it has the potential to form dense thickets. Using genetic techniques incorporating nine microsatellite markers, we show that abundant fruit set on cultivated trees as well as the subsequent appearance of wild individuals result from crossing between genetically distinct horticultural cultivars of the same species that originated from different areas of China. We conclude that intraspecific hybridization can be a potent but little recognized process impacting the evolution of invasiveness in certain species.