Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 286, Issue 3–4, pp 153–166 | Cite as

Morphological and phytochemical variation, genetic structure and phenology in an introgressive hybrid swarm of Senecio hercynicus and S. ovatus (Compositae, Senecioneae)

  • Christoph OberprielerEmail author
  • Alexander Barth
  • Stefan Schwarz
  • Jörg Heilmann
Original Article


Introgressive hybridisation between Senecio hercynicus and Senecio ovatus (Compositae, Senecioneae) was studied in a mixed stand of the two species on the S- and SW-facing slopes of the German part of the Bohemian Forest (SE Germany). Morphological variation based on multivariate analysis of 14 diagnostic characters, along with genetic data from an amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) fingerprinting analysis, indicates that the surveyed stand forms an intensively introgressed hybrid swarm. The majority of individuals were found to be intermediate between the two parental taxa, and strong statistical correlation between phenetic and genetic distances was observed. In contrast to that, flowering time of individuals (expressed as the time when 50% of the capitula of a plant were in flower) was found to follow a bimodal distribution in the hybrid swarm and lacked any correlation with the genetic and morphological relationships among plants. The same was true for the spectra of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) revealed by a gas-chromatographic survey: most of the 142 individuals surveyed fell into one of two main chemotypes, only a few plants exhibited an intermediate and additive PA spectrum, and no correlation with the genetic and morphological relationships among plants was observed. Assuming that most of the AFLP markers are neutral, we conclude that the correlation of morphology with the genetic pattern may argue for the neutrality of morphological features analysed. Consequently, we interpret the lack of correlation between phenological and phytochemical data with the neutral genetic markers as evidence that both phenology and phytochemistry may be either under selection or that these features are genetically or biosynthetically constrained.


Amplified fragment length polymorphism Asteraceae Chemical defence Flowering time Herbivory Hybridisation Pyrrolizidine alkaloids Senecio 



We would like to thank Dr. J. Meister and Mr. P. Hummel for their technical support in the molecular laboratory of CO at the Institute of Botany at the University of Regensburg. The help of Dr. Till Beuerle (University of Braunschweig, Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology) is gratefully acknowledged for running GC–MS measurements of representative PA-enriched extracts as well as for very fruitful discussions. We thank Mrs. G. Brunner (University of Regensburg, Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology) for excellent technical assistance, Mr. J. Kiermaier (University of Regensburg, Zentrale Analytik, Chemistry and Pharmacy) for running GC–MS spectra and an anonymous reviewer who improved our contribution considerably.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christoph Oberprieler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alexander Barth
    • 1
  • Stefan Schwarz
    • 1
  • Jörg Heilmann
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of BotanyUniversity of RegensburgRegensburgGermany
  2. 2.Institute of PharmacyUniversity of RegensburgRegensburgGermany

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