European Phragmites australis is one of four main cp-DNA haplotype clusters present worldwide. The European gene pool extends from North America to Far East Asia and South Africa. Extensive gene flow occurs only within the temperate region of Europe.
Background and aims
Two Phragmites australis taxa are recognized in Europe: P. australis ssp. altissimus, also known as Phragmites isiaca, in the Mediterranean region and P. australis in the temperate region. Another taxonomic group in the Mediterranean is Phragmites frutescens. European genotypes are diverse genetically, cytologically and morphologically, and are related to African, Asiatic and American genotypes. We investigated chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) diversity in Europe and defined the current borders of the European gene pool.
We analysed chloroplast variation with parsimony and genetic distance methods, and compared it with that of nuclear amplified fragment length polymorphism and microsatellites. We also investigated the phenological pattern of 188 genotypes collected worldwide in a common garden in Denmark. We assumed that non-flowering genotypes could indicate climatic, geographic and/or reproductive barriers to dispersal and would have been recorded in the genetic pattern as groups genetically isolated from, or within, the European pool.
The European P. australis gene pool extends from North America to the Far East and South Africa. However, African and North American genotypes are differentiating from the European genotypes. Mediterranean P. australis is genetically different from temperate P. australis and shares several similarities with Phragmites mauritianus in Africa and Phragmites karka in Asia. Phragmites frutescens shares the cpDNA sequences with both these tropical species. Two DNA bands can distinguish Mediterranean P. australis from P. frutescens and P. mauritianus and from temperate P. australis, and reveal possible hybrids among these species in the Mediterranean region. Phenological data confirmed possible gene flow within the temperate region of Europe, whereas the Mediterranean genotypes did not set inflorescences in Denmark, suggesting reproductive barriers between temperate and Mediterranean P. australis.
European P. australis appears as one of four main Phragmites groups known in the world. Further research is needed to understand the implications of long-distance dispersal at the population level.