Background and Aims
Globe artichoke and leafy cardoon, two crops within the same species Cynara cardunculus, are traditionally cultivated in the Mediterranean region and play a significant role in the agricultural economy of this area. The two cultigens have different reproductive systems: artichoke is generally vegetatively propagated, while leafy cardoon is seed propagated. The domestication events underlying the origin of both artichoke and cultivated cardoon from their wild relative and the area of occurrence are not yet fully understood. The aim of this study was to investigate population structure in wild cardoon, globe artichoke and leafy cardoon material and infer domestication events.
Thirty-five microsatellite (simple sequence repeat) markers, distributed in the C. cardunculus genome, and a large geographical and numerical sampling in southern Europe and North Africa were used to assess population structure and diversity.
The results suggest the presence of two distinct domestication events for artichoke and leafy cardoon, and also suggest a new possible scenario, with western wild cardoon having originated from cultivated cardoon escaped from cultivation. Evidence was found for a demographic bottleneck in the past history of globe artichoke.
The results shed new light on the relationships between the three taxa of C. cardunculus and highlight relevant aspects on the evolution of domestication of two crops with a different reproductive system within the same species. It is proposed that the probable centre of origin of artichoke is located in southern Italy, probably Sicily.