, Volume 98, Issue 3–4, pp 402–411

Growth form distribution and genetic relationships in tree clusters of Pinus flexilis, a bird-dispersed pine

  • Katherine S. Carsey
  • Diana F. Tomback
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/BF00324230

Cite this article as:
Carsey, K.S. & Tomback, D.F. Oecologia (1994) 98: 402. doi:10.1007/BF00324230


Seed dispersal by the Clark's nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana Wilson) may markedly influence the growth form and genetic population structure of limber pine (Pinus flexilis James). The nutcracker buries clusters of seeds in subterranean caches; germination of clustered seeds often results in a growth form characterized by two or more genetically distinct trees with fused or contiguous trunks (tree clusters). The occurrence of a morphologically similar form, the multi-trunk tree (a single genet branched near the base), as well as the typical single-trunked tree, complicates the study of limber pine populations. We examined growth form distribution and genetic relationships in tree clusters in limber pine populations at four elevations (from 2585 m to 3460 m) in the Colorado Front Range. At three study areas, relative occurrence of limber pine growth forms, as well as that of associated pines, was examined by a point-centered quarter survey. From the four study areas, we collected foliage from each trunk from a total of 74 “clumps” (combined tree clusters and multi-trunk trees) in order to differentiate the two growth forms using starch gel protein electrophoresis. Tree “clumps” were significantly more common in limber pine than in ponderosa or lodgepole pine (P<0.010). Although single-trunk limber pine was the most common growth form, except at the highest elevation, both multi-trunk trees and tree clusters were present in each stand. Tree clusters were estimated to comprise about 20% of the tree sites in each limber pine stand; the estimated proportion of multi-trunk trees varied by site from 5% to 77%. Trees in clusters were related, on average, as half to full siblings (mean r=0.43), but were unrelated to trees in other clusters (mean r=0.01). Electrophoretic analysis suggests possible genetic differentiation in limber pine that may be the result of different selection pressures on the growth forms.

Key words

Genetic relationships Growth form Mutualism Nucifraga columbiana Pinus flexilis 

Copyright information

© Springer Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine S. Carsey
    • 1
  • Diana F. Tomback
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology and Center for Environmental SciencesUniversity of Colorado at DenverDenverUSA

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