Original Paper

Tree Genetics & Genomes

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 107-116

First online:

Comparative chloroplast and nuclear DNA analysis of Castanea species in the southern region of the USA

  • Xiaowei LiAffiliated withDepartment of Horticulture, Auburn University
  • , Fenny DaneAffiliated withDepartment of Horticulture, Auburn University Email author 

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Boundaries between American Castanea species (Castanea dentata, the American chestnut and C. pumila var. pumila, the Allegheny chinkapin, and var. ozarkensis, the Ozark chinkapin) have been difficult to establish because of intraspecific variation, interspecific similarities and the incidence of chestnut blight, which has prevented trees from maturing. In this study, informative chloroplast (cp) DNA and nuclear sequences from Castanea taxa were analyzed to gain a better understanding of their phylogeography in North America. Our emphasis has been on the most southern Castanea population in the Appalachian region, known for its morphological diversity. This Ruffner Mountain (Alabama) population shows a high number of unique haplotypes, which can be divided into two main groups. One group shares homology with the widespread and evolutionarily recent C. dentata haplotype. The other group shares homology with American chestnuts and Allegheny chinkapin taxa from southern states. This group has been the result of recent and more ancient cp capture and hybridization, indicative of hybrid zone clustering and glacial refugial origin. The range of C. pumila must have been more extensive along the Coastal Plains region, since only a few mutations separate the Ozark chinkapin from the main Allegheny chinkapin haplotype. The geographic origin of the American Castanea species complex appears to be in the Gulf Coast region.


Castanea dentata Castanea pumila Chestnut Allegheny chinkapin Ozark chinkapin cpDNA Nuclear SNPs Hybridization