, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 293-304

Diversity of the Sheanut tree (Vitellaria paradoxa C.F. Gaertn.) in Ghana

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The Sheanut tree (Vitellaria paradoxa C.F. Gaertn.) is highly valued for oil obtained from its seeds and frequently maintained in the semi-arid parklands of sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal to Uganda. Although variation has been noted for V. paradoxa subsp. paradoxa, few studies have been undertaken on patterns of phenotypic or genotypic diversity. Results are presented from 294 accessions collected in Ghana, using easily quantifiable morphological parameters. Productive mature trees varied from shrubby multi-stemmed individuals (height <5 m) to 30-m straight-boled trees with high compact canopies. The leaf lamina (tree mean ±% coefficient of variation of total mean) varied from 9.2 to 22.5 cm (±15.0%); seed length from 1.74 to 3.74 cm (±11.7%); and fat content from 29.1 to 61.9% of dry kernel weight (±9.4%). Clinal trends significantly correlated with location parameters that in turn related to environmental variation. Population variation of seed characteristics increased to the Northeast, perpendicular to the annual movement of the inter-tropical convergence zone. It is proposed that this is a consequence of past climatic changes, coupled with a lack of methodical selection for seed type when trees are maintained on agricultural land. Isozyme analysis revealed moderate to high levels of heterozygosity (He 0.2142) and high geneflow (Fst = 0.0124, Nm = 19.9), supporting results obtained from morphological studies. Isozyme and multivariate morphology analyses showed similar but weak geographical separation patterns.